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Not all fats are bad, but they should be eaten sparingly

October 13, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

A well-balanced diet benefits everyone - but eating in moderation from all five food groups is especially important for individuals with special dietary needs, nutrition experts say.

Whether you're trying to lose weight or watching what you eat because of health conditions such as high cholesterol and osteoporosis, your body will benefit from a diet rich in the fiber and nutrients found in certain meats, vegetables, fruits, breads and dairy products, says Tammy Thornton, registered dietitian with the Washington County Health Department.

You can even get away with a little fat and sugar if you eat a well-balanced diet, she says.

"Whenever you talk about total restriction, because we're all human, we try to rebel. Moderation is the key. I think that's much easier to live with," Thornton says. "There are fats that are healthy for our bodies."

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Polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats cause the liver to produce less of the harmful cholesterol that can build up in the arteries, leading to heart attacks and strokes. Saturated fats - such as those found in foods including fried chicken and ground beef - raise bad cholesterol levels more than anything else in the diet. Trans fat, which is formed when food manufacturers use hydrogenation to turn liquid oils into solid fats such as vegetable shortening and some margarines, acts like saturated fat, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at www.fda.gov on the Web.

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Dennis C. Wolff recently asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to put one fat - butter - back into the Federal School Lunch Program because research has shown moderate amounts of butter to be part of a healthy diet. The 100-percent natural fat has only 2.5 grams of saturated fat per teaspoon and contains no preservatives, additives or artificial flavorings. Butter also boasts calcium and vitamins A, E, B6 and D, according to the USDA.

A balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is a crucial step in preventing osteoporosis, a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation's Web site at www.nof.org.

One-percent or skim milk provides a healthy dose of calcium without the extra fat found in whole milk, Thornton says. Those who do not drink milk can get calcium from vegetables such as broccoli and low-fat dairy products, including yogurt, cottage cheese and calcium-fortified soy milk, she says.

Always read nutritional and ingredient labels so you know exactly what you're eating, Thornton says.

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