The role of fat in your everyday diet

Fat is not always the enemy, it is an essential component of your everyday health.

Salmon with rosemary being prepared by a woman in an apron.
Fish provide a great source of healthy fat.

Common perceptions about fats are often not true and avoiding all fats is not healthy because it is important to have healthy fats in our diet. There are fats that contain essential fatty acids that are necessary for good health and fats that help the body to use certain vitamins. The United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) makes the following recommendations in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

  • Keep trans-fatty acid consumption as low as possible, especially by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans-fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, and by limiting other solid fats.
  • Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars. Such as:
    • Butters, stick margarines, and animal fats from beef and pork. These are all solid at room temperature.
    • Soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, fruit drinks and ice cream. These are all processed foods that have added sugars and syrups.

Here are some actions you can take every day to keep your consumption of saturated fats, trans-fats and cholesterol low while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.

  • Check the Nutrition Facts label to compare foods. Our interactive label can help you find what to look at on the label.
  • Choose alternative fats. Replace saturated and trans-fats in your diet with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Sources of monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include soybean, corn, sunflower oils and foods like nuts.
  • Considerconsuming fish and cuts of lean meat. Examples include:
    • Poultry: chicken or turkey white meat or ground meat
    • Beef: flank steak, top loin, sirloin, lean ground beef
    • Pork: pork tenderloin
    • Seafood: salmon, trout, cod, flounder, mackerel, mussels and clams
  • Choose foods such as dairy products, lean meats, fish, skinless poultry, whole grain foods and fruit and vegetables.
  • Beware of diets that tell you to eliminate a nutrient, such as fat.

Daily essential fatty acid consumption contributes to our overall daily health in moderation. For more information please contact your local MSU Extension office or visit the MSU Extension Health and Nutrition site.

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