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Fats are the most concentrated source of food energy (calories). Fats are mixtures of three kinds of fatty acids—saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. A fat that contains a lot of saturated fatty acids is usually firm, like butter or lard. Some vegetable fats like coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and palm oil are also high in saturated fatty acids. Vegetable oils such as olive oil, canola oil, corn oil, or soybean oil contain a lot of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. When vegetable oils are hydrogenated to form solid shortenings or margarine, some of the unsaturated fatty acids become saturated, and the fat becomes firm.
Cholesterol is a fatlike substance found in Why Be Concerned almost all your body cells. Your body can make it, but it also comes from the food you About Fat and eat. Cholesterol is present in all animal foods—meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and egg yolks. Both the cholesterol that comes
If you have a high blood cholesterol level, you from your food (dietary cholesterol) and the
have a greater chance of having a heart attack cholesterol made by your body circulate in
or a stroke. Eating too much saturated fat, your blood (blood cholesterol). Cholesterol is
cholesterol, and too many calories can inused by your body to make hormones, sub
crease your blood cholesterol. A diet containstances needed for digestion, and new cells.
ing too much total fat and too many calories may increase your risk for certain cancers.
The way diet affects blood cholesterol varies
among individuals. However, blood cholesTry A Stirfry
terol does increase in most people when they Stirfrying is a quick and easy cooking
eat a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol
and excessive in calories. Of these, dietary satmethod that requires very little fat. Heat a heavy skillet or a wok and add just enough
urated fat has the greatest effect; dietary oil to lightly coat the bottom of the
cholesterol has less. pan-about 1 or 2 teaspoons. Then add the food and stir constantly while cooking, Start with thin strips or diced portions of meat, poultry, or fish. When the meat is almost done, add small pieces of vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, or green onions. Cook just until vegetables are tender, but still crisp and bright in color. For a slightly softer texture, add about 2 tablespoons of water, cover the pan, and steam for a few minutes.
Should You Be Concerned?
A blood cholesterol level of 200 mg/dl or less is considered desirable for adults. The relation of blood cholesterol to the risk for heart disease is less clear in older adults than in middle-aged people. However, heart disease is still
the number one cause of death in older Americans, both men and women. Smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, lack of exercise, heredity, and being overweight are other risk factors. If you don't know what your blood cholesterol level is, ask your doctor to check it the next time you go for a visit. Your doctor can help you evaluate your risk and determine whether your cholesterol level is too high. Your doctor can also explain the different kinds of blood cholesterol (HDL and LDL), triglycerides, and other blood lipids and explain how they affect your risk for heart disease.
Most of us eat too much fat. Even if your blood cholesterol level is not high, you may want to make some changes in your food choices to reduce the amount of fat and saturated fat you eat. If you're like most Americans, 36 percent of your calories come from fat. A diet with 30 percent or less of calories from total fat (and less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat) would be healthier. Reducing fat may help you control your weight if necessary. This is important because obesity increases your risk for high blood pressure, stroke, high blood cholesterol, and diabetes and also aggravates arthritis by putting added stress on your joints.
Easy Ways To Cut Fat, Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol in Your Diet
At the Store:
round, loin, sirloin, pork loin chops, and
roasts. • Consider fish and poultry as alternatives;
they are somewhat lower in saturated fat. • Buy lowfat versions of dairy products. • Read the food label and choose those foods
that are lower in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
In the Kitchen: • When cooking, replace saturated fats such
as butter and lard with small amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in vegetable oils such as corn oil, soybean
oil, olive oil, peanut oil, or canola oil. • Broil, roast, bake, steam, or boil foods in
stead of frying them, or try stirfrying (see box on page 4) with just a little fat. Trim all visible fat from meats before cook
ing and remove the skin from poultry. • Spoon off fat from meat dishes after they
are cooked. Use skim milk or lowfat milk when making
“cream” sauces, soups, or puddings. • Substitute lowfat yogurt or whipped lowfat
cottage cheese for sour cream and mayon
naise in dips and dressings. • Substitute two egg whites for each whole
egg in recipes for most quick breads, cookies, and cakes. (The cholesterol and fat are
in the yolk, not in the white.) • Try lemon juice, herbs, or spices to season
foods instead of butter or margarine.
At the Table: • Use less of all fats and oils, especially satu
rated fats such as butter, cream, sour cream,
and cream cheese. • Try reduced-calorie salad dressings—they
are usually low in fat. • As a beverage, gradually replace whole milk
with 2 percent fat milk, then 1 percent fat or skim milk.
Some Facts About Sodium
Sodium occurs naturally in most foods. It is also added to many foods and beverages, usu ally as salt. One teaspoon of salt contains about 2,000 milligrams of sodium. The body needs sodium to maintain normal blood volume and for the nerves and muscles. But, populations with diets high in salt have more high blood pressure, a condition that increases your risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. People with high blood pressure are usually advised to restrict their salt and sodium. It is also important to maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and stay on your medication.
No one can predict who will develop high blood pressure, but many Americans eat more sodium than they actually need. Some health authorities suggest that healthy adults try to limit their sodium intake to 2,400 milligrams (mg) a day.
Much of the sodium in the American diet comes from salt added in cooking or at the table. The taste for salt is learned—you can “unlearn” it by gradually cutting down on your salt intake. Start by thinking about how much sodium you add every time you use that salt shaker.