Nutrition Self-Help Advice on Fats

Written by Paul Wolf

Advice on what's good to eat, according to the government.

The Department of Agriculture says to limit your fat intake to no more than 35% of the amount of calories you consume.  The public is fed up with the tyranny of low fat. So three cheers for the government's  re-write of nutritional guidelines. It recommends people get their fats from nuts, fish and vegetable oils.

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Try to cut down saturated and trans fat intake. 
Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
Learn how to make wise choices: Leaner is better; whole grains, vegetables and fruits are best. They'll fill you up. 
"We have the same message, but expressed in a way that people can better relate to," said Anne Dubner for the American Dietetic Association. "People soon can feel they have realistic goals."

Those who have been settling for pasta with dry sauce can drown out old guilt in a splash of olive oil.

 For a decade now, people have interpreted the low fat mantra to mean, "How low can you go?" You might have wondered about the value of that, the last time you ate a whole box of fat-free Snackwells.

"Thirty percent of calories from fat means absolutely nothing to the consumer in the U.S.," says Susan Borra of the International Food Information Council. "We have to make the guidelines understandable and consumer-friendly."

Most nutritionists champion the benefits of unsaturated fats, which stabilize blood sugar, add to the feeling of satisfaction and assist in vitamin absorption.

The guidelines emphasize the crucial distinction between unsaturated and saturated. The renewed emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole grains and an emphasis away from animal fats already prompted the meat and dairy industries to lodge complaints with the government.

"All foods have a place in a healthy diet," Borra believes. "The key is to manage these foods."

So go out today and buy that jar of peanut butter. Just make sure it's not empty by tomorrow night.

Will the Guidelines Get Us to Re-think Our Eating Habits?

There are only five things that keep the average consumer from feeling good about the quality of nutritional information they are getting from experts.

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Unsaturated fat comes from plant foods and fish.
Saturated fat is found in other animal foods, like rich milk products, eggs and meats.
Advice: Keep your animal foods lean and moderate in quantity, and eat lots of whole fruits, vegetables and grains. The rest is elaboration. 
Guilt, worry, helplessness, anger and fear.

So says the International Food Information Council, which surveyed focus groups of women, who are the so-called gatekeepers of good nutrition in most households.

"We in the nutrition field are losing our audience because people have tuned us out," says Susan Borra, registered dietician with the Council. The IFIC published findings indicating that all five emotions are inflamed when the subject turns to food.

People feel helpless around contradictory information, guilty when they aren't living up to an ideal model, and afraid when colon cancer or heart disease is the result of one wrong bite.

Borra believes the efforts to re-write nutritional guidelines for clarity and explicitness are way overdue, "It's clear to me that we need a whole, new way to look at how we get across this information."

Meanwhile, Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest wonders what new confusion will come "if the nutritional establishment loosens up its position on fat." What is "moderate?" Will people know saturated from unsaturated?

While moderation may be in the belly of the beholder, there is a rule of thumb to go by when deciding between saturated and unsaturated fats. Basically, unsaturated fat comes from plant foods and fish. Saturated fat is found in other animal foods, like rich milk products, eggs and meats.

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