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Key Messages on Fat

Improving your eating habits does not mean that you will need to give up the foods you love. Variety and moderation are the cornerstones for healthy eating. Eliminating a number of foods because they contain fat may result in eliminating essential nutrients from your overall eating pattern. More importantly, you may lose some of the enjoyment of eating. Avoid simply categorizing lower-fat foods as "good" and higher- fat foods as "bad". Remember that the goal is to reduce, not eliminate, all fats.

While you should try to consume no more than 30% of your calories from fat and you need be aware of the fat in individual foods, you don't need to apply the 30% value to each individual food. The key message is that the overall eating pattern, not necessarily individual foods, should be lower in fat.

Cutting back on fat means you can eat more vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Fats provide 9 calories per gram while carbohydrates (starches and sugars) and proteins provide 4 calories per gram. More carbohydrate foods are needed to replace some of the energy provided from fat.

The reasons?
Fats are a concentrated source of energy (calories) that can contribute to extra body weight. Eating too much fat will increase your risk for heart disease & stroke. Most Canadians eat too much fat. You may need to make some changes to the amount and types of food you are eating. Small changes in the foods you select can make a big difference in how you look and feel.

There is a misconception that carbohydrate foods are fattening. In fact, foods such as plain bread, cereal, rice, pasta, potatoes and most legumes are usually lower fat choices . Substituting carbohydrate foods for higher fat choices is an easy way to reduce your fat intake. And since these foods are also filling and satisfying, they can help you control your weight.

Tip: Add extra herbs and spices to boost the flavour in low-fat recipes.

Fat in Your Diet

It is estimated that most Canadians eat about 25% more fat than they need for a healthy diet. Fat has been getting a lot of bad press recently, and rightly so. It has been identified as a risk factor in a number of serious illnesses, and most Canadians eat too much of it. At the same time though, a certain amount of fat is essential. Fat is an important part of your diet.

Fat Has its Good Points...
One of the reasons people like fat so much - and eat so much of it - is that it makes food taste, feel; and smell good. Among its good points, fat:

  • Supplies energy
  • Aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins
  • Enables your brain and nerve signals to transmit normally
  • Cushions your internal organs
  • Helps maintain your body temperature
  • Transports some vitamins
  • Provides essential fatty acids

...and its Bad Points
The problem is that when you eat too much fat, certain problems may arise. For example, there's a greater risk that you might:

Gain too much weight
Fat is fattening. One gram has nine calories. Eat enough of it, and you may eventually fall out of your healthy weight range.

Heart disease or stroke
Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in Canada today, and a high fat diet has been identified as one of the factors that increases your risk of getting it.