Fats have a lot of jobs in our bodies and in the foods we eat. In foods, fats create texture, like the creaminess of ice cream, and flavor, like the savory taste of beef. In our bodies, fats provide energy, the feeling of being full after we eat, cushion and insulation from the cold, and also help carry nutrients through the body.
Did you know that the foods we eat contain different kinds of fats? Some of these fats, such as saturated fat and trans fat should be only eaten in small amounts, while other fats, such as unsaturated fat are better for our bodies. You can find out what kind of fat is in your purchased food by looking at the ingredient labels. Click to “Meet the Fats” and learn about the different types.
Menu items with less than 30% fat, less than 10% saturated fat and no trans fat have the Heart Smart menu icon on our school menus.
Fats to ReduceThe Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommends that less than 10% of our daily calories come from saturated fat and that we consume as little trans fat as possible.
Saturated fats are found in animal foods such as butter, whole milk dairy products, beef, pork, chicken, and some plant oils such as palm oil. Saturated fat is known to increase total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (also known as bad cholesterol), which can lead to an increased risk for heart disease.1
Trans fats, created by food processing, are found in some margarine products, shortening, and foods with partially-hydrogenated oils like doughnuts and French fries. Trans fat increases LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) even more than saturated fat and should be eaten as little as possible.1
Handy tip #1: A quick way to tell whether a fat or oil is saturated or not is whether it is solid at room temperature. Butter and lard keep their shape at room temperature, which means they are mostly made up of saturated fat.
Handy tip #2: An easy way to decrease the amount of saturated fat and trans fat in your diet is to replace full-fat dairy products with nonfat ones, eat lean meats, and reduce the amount of sweets like cookies, pie, and cakes that often contain large amounts of butter and shortening.
Fats to IncreaseThe Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommends that we replace saturated fat with more unsaturated fats.1
Unsaturated fats are found in plant oils such as olive, canola, peanut, soybean, and safflower oil. They are also found in cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, and sardines. Unsaturated fats decrease total blood cholesterol levels and can decrease the risk of heart disease.1
Handy tip #3: Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are called oils. Olive oil and canola oil stay liquid when left at room temperature, so they are a good source of unsaturated fat.
- Click here to learn about how to replace saturated fat with unsaturated fat and lower the overall fat content in your recipes.
- Click here for a great way for your kids to “meet the fats!”
Watch a video
to learn about the differences between saturated, unsaturated and trans-fat shared by Highline Nutrition Services.
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010. 7th ed., Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 2010.