Fats and carbohydrates are two building blocks of a healthy diet, but many
people do not understand their role in proper nutrition. While the daily intake
of fats and oils should be limited, these elements are still a vital part of the
diet. The key is to make smart choices when it comes to fats and oils.
means substituting saturated fats with unsaturated fats, and using healthier,
lighter oils in cooking.
Let's look at the role fats and oils play in the diet. Fats are necessary for
supplying energy to the body. In addition, fats supply essential fatty acids and
act as carriers for fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E,
vitamin K and the carotenoids. In addition, fats have an important role to play
as building blocks for various tissues and membranes, and they also play a key
role in regulating numerous bodily functions.
Dietary fat is available from a variety of plant and animal sources, and most
diets do contain adequate amounts of fat. Most nutrition experts recommend
keeping the intake of fat to less than 20% of calories, but studies have shown
that severely limiting fat intake can be dangerous. Extreme low fat diets should
only be undertaking with a doctor's approval and oversight.
The type and amount of fat in the diet makes all the difference. A diet high in
saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol has been associated with a variety of
ills, including heart disease, stroke and other associated diseases. In
addition, many long term chronic problems, such as obesity, are associated with
high levels of dietary fats.
The greatest risk of complications from excessive fat intake appears to lie with
saturated fats and trans fats (fats that are solid at room temperature). One of
the best ways to keep levels of saturated fat low is to limit the amount of
animal fats that are consumed. These animal based fats include meats like bacon
and sausage, as well as butter and ice cream. Dietary cholesterol can be limited
by watching the consumption of eggs, organ meats and other foods high in
Food labels do make the complicated process of choosing the right fats somewhat
easier. For instance, trans fats will be listed on the ingredient list of foods
that contain them. In general, trans fats are found mainly in processed foods.
Some fats, such as polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, are better
choices for healthy eating. Examples of these fats include canola oil and olive
oil. Cooking with these lighter oils can be a big step toward a healthier diet.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, and
they have been found to have heart protecting qualities.
Many types of fish have also been found to be sources of good fat. Fish are
excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These omega-3's have been found to
promote good health, and they may even lower cholesterol levels.
Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet as well, and carbs are
necessary for providing energy and many essential nutrients. Carbohydrates are
found in fruits and vegetables, in grains and in milk and dairy products. It is
important to choose carbohydrates carefully, however, since not all are equally
When choosing breads and cereal, for instance, try to select those made with
whole grains, while avoiding the more highly refined varieties. It is also
important to limit the intake of sugars, such as soda, candy and highly
processed baked goods. Consuming large amounts of such high calorie, low
nutrient foods, can make it very difficult to stay on a healthy diet without
Most Americans tend to have too much of certain elements in their diet. Sugar is
one such element and salt is the other. While a basic level of sodium in the
form of salt is important to proper nutrition, most people consume too much salt
in their daily diet. Excess salt consumption can lead to water retention, high
blood pressure and other complications. Choosing low sodium foods, and limiting
the use of the salt shaker, can go a long way toward cutting levels of excess
salt in the diet.
About the Author
Zaak O'Conan discovers and presents useful information on how to enhance
and/or repair your life, body and relationships. You'll find his other articles
on eating better and other ways how to improve your life at
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