Fat has been given a bad rap. But it is an important part of a healthy diet. The fat in your diet is an essential part of the fuel your body stores to feed you and your brain. Fat helps make up cells called transport nutrients
that you need to grow. Transport nutrients also keep your skin and hair healthy, protect your internal organs from injury, and insulate you against the cold.
The best thing about fat is that it carries the flavor and texture of the foods you eat. Fat is what makes foods like pizza and ice cream so yummy. back to top
The skinny on fats
The trouble starts when you eat more fat than your body needs. If you fill up on fats, you could be missing out on other nutrients
your body needs or taking in too many calories
. When you don't burn off calories
as fast as you eat them, you gain weight. If you continue on that path, you may become overweight or obese
. A high-fat diet can lead to long-lasting health problems like heart disease
, and certain cancer
s when you're an adult. back to top
Not all fats are created equal
There are two kinds of fat in foods: saturated fat
and unsaturated fat
. All foods that contain fat have both the saturated and unsaturated kinds, but in different proportions. Butter and olive oil are both fats. But butter is mostly saturated fat
, and olive oil is mostly unsaturated fat
When it comes to health problems, saturated fat is the culprit. Saturated fat increases the amount of cholesterol
in your blood. If you have too much cholesterol
in your blood for many years, your arteries
could become clogged and you could get heart disease or high blood pressure or have a stroke
. Most girls don't worry about anything that far in the future, but it's worth thinking about. The investment you make in your body today can pay off in a healthier, more active life in the years to come. back to top
Are all salads low in fat?
You've practically grown bunny ears eating salads and greens, so you must be eating low fat, right? Not necessarily. Before you hit the salad bar or top off your greens with that yummy honey mustard dressing, take a look at the Nutrition Facts label
. Eeek! If your dressing is like most, just two tablespoons adds at least 12 grams of fat
and 130 calories to your salad. And when was the last time you used only two tablespoons? Eating that dressing alone is like eating a six-ounce steak and drinking a can of cola! So, next time you choose salad, go light on the dressing, or make your own with a little olive oil and vinegar. If you just have to drown the lettuce in creamy ranch, try a low-fat or nonfat version. back to top
Fat freaking you out?
Here are some tips for keeping fat a healthy part of your diet:
- Check the Nutrition Facts label on the foods you buy to make sure that less than 30 percent of the total calories are from fat. (And be sure that less than 10 percent are from saturated fat.)
- Use butter, margarine, and cream cheese sparingly. Choose fresh ground peanut butter or a brand that contains zero grams trans fatty acids. Cut away visible pieces of fat on beef and chicken, and choose meats labeled lean.
- Baking, broiling, and microwaving are healthier choices than frying. Fried foods like French fries, doughnuts, and potato chips absorb a lot of the fat they are cooked in.
- Choose lowfat or nonfat dairy products and salad dressings, or take smaller portions.
- Eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and fish.
- Eat fewer processed foods like frozen burritos and macaroni and cheese dinners. back to top