There are three main categories of fat found in the diet: saturated, mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated. The type of fat depends on the number of free links in the chemical structure: saturated fats have no free links, mono-unsaturated fats have one, and polyunsaturated fats have more than one.
HOW DO THEY AFFECT THE BODY?
Saturated fats tend to encourage the liver to produce cholesterol and make the blood more prone to clot. A little cholesterol is needed in the body but less than a quarter of the requirement comes from our food; the remainder is manufactured by the liver. High levels of saturated fats in the diet step up this process, and the excess is deposited on the artery walls in the form of atheroma. Polyunsaturated fats, on the other hand, tend to lower the level of cholesterol in the blood, and they may even reduce the stickiness of the blood platelets. Polyunsaturated fats therefore play a protective role in helping to keep the walls of the arteries clear. Monounsaturated fats do not increase your cholesterol, but they do not reduce it either.
Not only is our consumption of fat very high – and therefore an important contributory factor to obesity – but more than half of all that fat consumed is saturated. Cutting down on fat generally will not only help to combat weight problem but, better still, a low-fat diet can stop and may actually reverse existing atherosclerosis. It is particularly important to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet and to make sure that what fat you do eat is, as far as possible, polyunsaturated.
Despite widespread knowledge that sugar rots your teeth and contributes to obesity, sugar consumption remains high in the modern world.
Sugar is thought by some researchers to contribute to the risk of coronary heart disease, though no one knows for certain why this should be so, the evidence being partly confounded by the fact that those who consume a lot of sugar also tend to consume a lot of fat, which cause its own problems. Sugar tend to cause an increase in the level of blood triglycerides. There has also been some recent research on the effects of sugar on the rest of the circulation, which suggests that excess sugar is turned, in the liver, into fat – most of which is saturated. The evidence is not, as yet, conclusive.
CUT DOWN ON SUGAR
What is certain is that most of us need to reduce the amount of sugar we eat. This includes not only packet sugar whether white, brown or raw unrefined cane or beet sugar, but also sugar in processed foods, where it may be listed as sugar, sucrose, syrup, dextrose, molasses or caramel. If you must eat sweeteners, use honey or fruit juice concentrates, which contain natural sugar, fructose and glucose, as well as minerals and vitamins.
CUTTING DOWN ON SUGAR
1) Drink unsweetened fruit juice, diluted with mineral water if necessary.
2) Do not eat sweets.
3) Eat fruit at the end of a meal rather than a sticky pudding and munch a piece of fruit as a snack rather than sweets or chocolate.
4) Halve the amount of sugar in recipes.
5) Read the list of ingredients on processed foods, both sweet and savoury, and do not buy them if they contain sugar
One of the benefits of a low-fat, low-sugar, high-fibre way of eating is that you are unlikely to become or stay seriously overweight. Limiting your intake of alcohol and regular exercise will also help to keep your weight down.
If you think you need to lose weight, you should first differentiate between just being a little overweight which is not likely to have much effect on your health or being downright fat which can contribute to heart or circulatory disease. To find out where your weight falls, look at the chart.
Not every one puts on weight as a result of eating a lot. Some people have too slow a metabolism, which tends to run in families; other do not take sufficient exercise. Whatever the reason, if you are overweight, your problem is that you are eating more than you need for your amount of activity.
First of all, drastically reduce your intake of :
1) Butter, margarine, cooking fats and oils
2) cheese and cream
3) Fatty meat
4) Pastries, biscuits and cakes
5) Crisps and nuts
6) Rich sauces and soups
7) Sugary foods including jam, honey, sweets and chocolate
Several small meals are better than one heavy ones, so spread your food throughout the day and do not give in to the templation of cleaning your plate. Do not allow yourself to get very hungry since you will be tempted to snack on readily available foods like biscuits or sweets. You may find it helpful to arm yourself with a slimming books and to count food calorie values, to join a slimming club, or to ask your doctors advice, but do not be conned into taking any so called slimming pills; they do not help in the long run and may actually be harmful to your health.
WHICH FOODS CONTAIN FACTS?
No one food contains only a single type of fat; it is the relative proportion of the different types of fats within a food that make the food healthy or unhealthy. In general, saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature and come from animal sources, whereas polyunsaturated fats are soft, or in the form of oil, and come from vegetable and fish.
Saturated fats are found in beef, lamb, pork, and poultry and in all processed meat products such as bacon, sausages, frankfurters and meat pies. Mince bought from a butcher usually has a rather high fat content. You can avoid this usually has a rather high fat content. You can avoid this sources of fat by buying lean meat and mincing it yourself.
Poultry, or white meat, contains less fat than red meat, especially when the skin is removed. Game, such as rabbit, venison, pigeon and pheasant is the leanest meat of all and contains much more polyunsaturated fat and less saturated fat than other meats. Duck and goose are fatty meat but the fat is rather less saturated than red meats.
Milk and most diary product, such as butter, cheese particularly hard cheese such as cheddar and cream, are high in saturated fat.
Oils which are low in saturates and high in polyunsaturates include, in descending order of polyunsaturated fat content, safflower, soya been, sunflower, corn, cotton seed and sesame. Olive oil and groundnut oil contain monounsaturated. But beware : just because a food label tells you that a food contains vegetables fat, it does not necessarily mean that it is free from saturated fat; coconut oil, cocoa butter and palm oil (used in commercially prepared biscuits, pie fillings, non-dairy milk and cream substitutes) are all saturated fats. Avoid blended oils because they can be high in saturates.
Even a naturally healthy, polyunsaturated oil can be turned into a harmful, saturated fat if artificially hardened, a process known as hydrogenation. All margarines, for example, contain some hydrogenated fat or they would spill out of the tub, but it is a question of degree; the harder the margarine, the more saturated and the less healthy it is. Margarines which are labelled high in polyunsaturates must contain at least 40 per cent of their total fat content as polyunsaturates. Always buy cold pressed oils because they are extracted from the fresh, raw seed; the heat treatment used in some forms of processing can convert some of the polyunsaturated fats into saturated ones.
CUTTING DOWN ON FAT
1) Eat poultry and game in preference to red meat and meat products. Remove the skin from chicken and other poultry.
2) Eat more fish.
3) If you do eat red meat, trim away any fat before cooking.
4) Grill or bake rather than fry. Cook meat on a rack so that the fat can drain.
5) If you do fry, use polyunsaturated oil rather than butter or lard and a non-stick pan so that you use only a very small amount of oil to prevent it sticking.
6) Bought mince often contains a lot of fat so it is best to buy lean stewing beef, cut off all visible fat and mince it yourself . fry mince without adding any fat and then drain off all the fat before you add flavourings.
7) Use polyunsaturated margarine instead of butter and spread it sparingly.
8) Avoid hard cheese, such as cheddar and Stilton, and cream cheese, and buy lower-fat cheeses, or, even better, cottage or curd cheese as an alternative.
9) Change from full-fat milk to semi skimmed or, best of all, skimmed.
10) Use plain low-fat yogurt instead of cream, mayonnaise or salad cream.
11) Boil or poach eggs rather than scramble or fry with oil or butter.
12) Eat more vegetarian meals or stretch small amounts of meat by mixing them with pulse and vegetables.
13) Eat baked or boiled potatoes in preference to chips.
14) Avoid manufactured foods, such as biscuits, cakes, pastry, sauces and crisps, that are rich in hidden fat, which is usually saturated. If you must eat cakes, make you own using a healthy, polyunsaturated fat.
THE ADVANTAGES OF FISH
White fish contains hardly any fat at all and is a high protein, low-fat alternative to meat. Fatty fish, such as mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna, salmon and trout, are excellent sources of polyunsaturated oils.
These oils are believed to have a particularly protective effect on the circulation by making the blood platelets less sticky and consequently less liable to clot. Eskimos, who subsist on large quantities of fish, have a low incidence of heart disease; other research has shown that fish oil supplements can even be helpful to angina patients.
It is a good idea, therefore, to eat fish at least two or three times every week, including fatty fish at least once. And if you eat tinned fish, such as sardines or tuna, choose ones in a named, healthy oil, such as soya or olive.
SODIUM AND POTASSIUM
There are two minerals, which must be present in the correct amount for the growth and proper functioning of the body. A delicate balance of sodium and potassium is important if the kidneys are to work properly, so that the body can maintain the correct fluid levels.
An adult needs to eat only 1 gram of salt a day but in many instances we consume far more than is needed. For example, the British eat about 10 gram of salt, or sodium chloride, a day. All fruits, vegetables, milk, meats and cereals contain small amount of sodium. We get enough from these source, and the addition of extra salt is unnecessary.
A high consumption of salt is thought by many doctors to be a risk factor in high blood pressure, which is in turn, a risk factor in coronary heart disease and strokes. Most healthy people can get rid of excess sodium through the kidneys and it does not cause them any harm. However, some people are sensitive to sodium and it is in these people that excessive sodium may cause high blood pressure. If the kidneys fail to eliminate sufficient sodium, or if the heart fails to pump blood efficiently, sodium will accumulate in the body. This excess sodium cause the body to retain water, thus expanding the volume of blood and possibly causing swelling of ankles and other parts of the body.
Cutting down on salt does not guarantee a reduction in risks but it certainly will not do you any harm. And even if you do not yet have high blood pressure, it is still a good idea to limit your salt intake before doctors orders leave you no alternative. The longer you continue to add a lot of salt to your food, the more accustomed you will be to it and the harder it is to cut down.
THE CASE FOR POTASSIUM
While our consumption of sodium has increased in recent years, so our consumption of potassium has tended to decrease, because processing removes much of the naturally occurring potassium. Insufficient potassium exaggerates the impact of sodium on the body, and it may be this imbalance which produces a rise in blood pressure. There is some evidence that potassium can reduce high blood pressure. Thus it is important not only to reduce the amount of sodium you consume, but also to increase your potassium intake.
Most natural foods contain potassium, and a balanced diet including all the essential foods usually provides sufficient potassium for most people.