Part 2

Fats are the most concentrated source of energy we can consume, providing more than twice the energy (calories) of sugar. Many people try to reduce by cutting down on sweets but continue to consume a high fat diet. For weight control, sugar is only a small part of the problem. Sometimes the fat in foods isn't obvious. Those famous circular chocolate sandwich cookies with the white filling in the middle will surprise you. That filling is essentially vegetable shortening and sugar. Would anyone take a tablespoon of Crisco (solid vegetable oil) and mix it with a tablespoon of sugar and then eat it, or feed it to their kids? The only way to know what you're eating is to read labels carefully. (See Reading Labels, for more information.)

The best way to cut down on fats is to avoid using them. It isn't necessary to give up all your favorite foods. Many pretzels are fat free, and nearly fat free potato and corn tortilla chips, baked instead of fried, are available. A single serving of a dozen regular fried tortilla chips can have from 6 to 14 grams of fat. A serving of corn chips that have been baked instead of fried, twice the size of the fried ones, has less than one gram of fat (from the corn itself). Baked chips will have nearly twice as many chips in a 7 ounce bag, since at least half the weight of fried chips is oil.

Cooking at home can allow us to control fats, but when eating out it is much more difficult. Some restaurants will serve steamed vegetables and then cover them with butter, others claim to add only a little bit of oil, but that small amount can bring the calories from fat well over 50%. See the chapter on eating out for survival tips and tricks.

Many adults feel they can cut back on fats, but worry about their children. Research findings and studies done in other countries where fat is not commonly eaten show that after age two, children do not need the amounts of fat we usually give them. A reduction in fat for young children is one of the best insurance policies to prevent heart disease and some forms of cancer. Children who consume more fat than needed have higher cholesterol levels and more illnesses.

It isn't necessary to count calories or memorize the fat content of all the foods you eat. Cutting down on fat is easy. Avoid any food that has more than 3 grams of fat per serving. Know which foods are high in fat (avocados, nuts, seeds, olives and coconut are the most common) and learn to read labels. Find ways to avoid oil in cooking and in salad dressings. These few rules will keep you from making poor choices. You'll be eating close to 10% calories from fat, and that will lower your heart risk, give you more energy, help you lose extra weight and improve your health.

There are many books listing foods and their fat content, but here is a small list of some common foods and their percentage of calories from fat (cff). You may find a few surprises here:

Animal Foods%cffPlant Foods%cff
Pork Sausage83Mori-Nu Lite Tofu28
Hot Dogs80Mustard Greens13
Roast Duck76Garbanzo Beans11
Top Loin Steak69Cauliflower7
Baked Ham, lean69Cabbage7
Tuna, oil pack68Eggplant7
Fried Chicken65Cucumber6
Roast Chicken56Apple6
Sea Bass53Carrots4
Mackerel, Pacific49Green Peas4
Salmon, red49Kidney Beans4
Beef Stew47Onions3
Roast Turkey, leg47Potatoes1

Fat shown on packages is by weight and often has water added, and will cause the percentage to appear lower. Ham labeled "98% fat free" can have more than 50% calories from fat. Extra lean ground beef, labeled as 10% or less fat , usually has at least 49% of its calories from fat.

A number of products on the market claim to "burn" fat. Some tell you to take the pills and do an hour of aerobic exercise. The fat is burned from the exercise, not the pill. Losing fat is most safely and permanently accomplished by eating wisely (lowering your fat intake) and exercising.

Next: Carbohydrates

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©1994, 1996, 2002
Dr. Neal Pinckney
Healing Heart Foundation