Reading a Nutrition Label: Part II

Fats: The good, the bad and the ugly

The Good- Unsaturated Fats

Photo by Christopher Ubiadas

Photo by Christopher Ubiadas

Unsaturated fats are the “healthiest” fats out of the bunch. They provide essential fatty acids our bodies can’t make and battle out the bad LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in our body. Unsaturated fats are usually found in liquid form like vegetable oils, but can also be found in nuts and fish. If you really want to get technical, you can read up on the difference between polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats here.

The Bad- Saturated Fats
Saturated fats are usually solid like butters, cheeses and fatty meat products, but they can also be in the form of oils like palm and coconut oils. The CDC recommends that 10% or less of your calories should come from saturated fats. To cut down, choose lower fat dairy products like skim milk and trim excess fat and skin off of meats and poultry.

The Ugly- Trans Fat

Blue Bunny Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream. Image Source: Blue Bunny

Blue Bunny Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream. Image Source: Blue Bunny

Trans fats are the ones you want to steer clear of as much as possible because they contribute to cholesterol accumulation in your arteries. Trans fat is naturally found in the fatty part of meat and dairy products, as well as artificially in foods, most commonly as “partially hydrogenated oil”. When looking at a nutrition label you should look for products that have zero grams of trans fat. Here’s a little food product gimmick though. If a product has less than .5 grams of trans fat, the company can label it as zero grams. This is why serving size and reading the ingredients is super important!

Let’s take a look at one of my favorite guilty pleasure ice cream flavors, cookie dough. The label clearly says zero grams of trans fat, but look in the ingredients, right in the middle of the list is “partially hydrogenated oils”. Now I’m not one to precisely measure out ½ a cup of ice cream so if I have 2 servings, that means I could be eating up to 1 gram of trans fat, thinking I’m eating 0!

All in all you should moderate all fats. The CDC recommends that only 25-35% of your calories should come from fats.   Be aware that many “low fat” products are usually substituted with something else like sodium, carbs or sugar so make sure you get in the habit of comparing labels.  Also try to substitute saturated and trans fats with the “healthier” unsaturated fats like using avocado instead of butter or using olive oil instead of lard whenever you can.


2 responses to “Reading a Nutrition Label: Part II

  1. Pingback: Cholester-uh oh! | getPHYT·

  2. Pingback: Sodium: Put that Salt Shaker Down! | getPHYT·

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