Fat Overview and Food Chart

Author: Rod Ferris CPT (YMCA, ACE), CPAFLA

Introduction

This basic nutrient makes us drool and brings flavour to the foods we love. But, because of its association with a variety of diseases, coronary heart disease (CHD), diabetes, and obesity just to name a few; it is important to recognize that although it is an essential element of a healthy diet, it should be consumed in moderation.

The Basics

While carbohydrates and protein supply the body with 4 kcals of energy per gram, fats provide a whopping 9 kcals per gram! This means that the more fat there is in a given food the more likely it is to have a high number of calories. Because the number of calories we ingest is directly related to weight gain, a diet high in fat would also likely be high in calories thus leading to weight gain.

Although there are often warnings associated with excess fat consumption it is also a vital component of normal body functioning. Fat is needed for insulation and protection of organs, and maintenance of core body temperature. Maintenance of essential body fat (%) is especially important for women because lack of such impairs menstruation. NOTE: 17% body fat in women can be associated a loss of menstruation (source).

Different Types

There are several different forms of fat:

Triglycerides

The majority of body fat consists of triglycerides which circulate in the blood. A caloric excess is converted into triglycerides which are then stored as fat deposits most commonly on the hips, thighs and abdomen.

Cholesterol

Body fat also consists of cholesterol which is notorious for coating artery walls thus narrowing potential blood flow. This ‘plaque’ build up is one of the leading causes of atherosclerosis also known as hardening of the arteries. Cholesterol also circulates in the blood with the help of a compound called lipoproteins. There are two types of lipoproteins which play an essential role in determining the fate of cholesterol. 

High-Density-Lipoproteins (HDL’s): transport circulating cholesterol to the liver where it can be metabolized and eliminated from the body.
Low-Density-Lipoproteins (LDL’s): transport circulating cholesterol to the cells of the body where it can accumulate leading to fat deposits and possible obesity. 

For this reason it is important to maintain a higher level of HDL’s. Regular participation in an exercise program appears to help reduce total cholesterol by increasing HDL’s. When considering the fats we ingest in our diet from day to day it is important to recognize the different types of fat we ingest and how they affect our bodies.

  Read more about LDL and HDL

Saturated Fats

Commonly come from animal sources and are solid at room temperature. (Eg meat, milk, cheese and butter.) Unfortunately, a high intake of saturated fats is linked to high blood cholesterol levels and thus it is important to monitor our daily intake of the fat.

Non Saturated Fats

Commonly come from plant and nut sources and are liquid at room temperature. (Eg vegetable oil, cashews, and peanut and olive oils.)

How much Fat do we Need?

While there's a lot of debate nowadays, most of the real fat experts agree that a good balance of the three is the way to go if you want to give the old ticker a fighting chance. In other words, your goal is to consume 1/3 of your fat from saturated fatty acids, 1/3 from monounsaturated fatty acids, and 1/3 from polyunsaturated fatty acids. But it's important to learn what kinds of foods contain the different types of fatty acids. So use this handy chart below to learn which fatty acids are found in a number of common foods. By learning which foods contain which fatty acids, a balanced fat approach should be a snap.


How do I Cut Back on Fat?

While a certain level of fat is required in the diet, at 9cal/g, fat calories can add up quickly and push us over our necessary daily intake if we aren’t careful. Fortunately its easy to reduce the fat in our diets. Here are some fun tips to help you better manage the fat in your diet!

Tips

1. Sauteeing your meat or vegetables in water or chicken broth will save the whopping 240cals you’d be consuming if you used only 15mL of oil.

2. Using applesauce in place of butter when baking your favourite treats will leave your baked goods moist, tasty and can save you up to 90cals!

3. A snack food that fills you up and has only trace amounts of fat is POPCORN! You can wolf down a whole 2 air popped cups for only 60calories.

4. A great easy way to cut back on 5g of fat when cooking is to remove the skin from chicken.

5. Eat fish instead of meat. Not only is it high in omega-3’s, but it can save you up to 92cals per serving! 

Fat Food Chart


Food
Saturated Fat %
Mono-
unsaturates Fat %
Poly-
unsaturated Fat %
 Almonds  10 68 22
 Beef 55 40 4
Brazil Nuts 26 36 38
Canola Oil 5 57 38
Cashews 20 62 18
Cheese 67 26 7
Chicken 31 49 20
Coconut Oil 86 9 5
Duck 35 52 13
Eggs 39 43 18
Flax Seed Oil 8 18 74
Hazelnuts  8 82 10
Herring 22 55 18
Macadamia Nuts  16 82 2

Other Fat Links

Calculating Body Fat
Foods that Lower Cholesterol
Good Cholesterol Readings and Meal Plan




Next: Vitamins