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Label Reading III – Fats

Total fat is next on the list, this is the amount of fat for the company’s portion size, not necessarily the amount that you would like to eat. Total Fat tells you how much fat is one serving of the food. It includes both healthy and unhealthy fats. Healthy fats (unsaturated like mono and poly unsaturated fats) help lower your cholesterol and protect your heart. Unhealthy fats (saturated and trans fats) raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease.

The following is from the FDA webpage:

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all cells of the body. The body can use cholesterol that comes from food, or can make it in the liver.  The human body can make all the cholesterol that it needs. Cholesterol is a structural component of cell membranes, and is necessary for the production of bile, a fluid made by the liver that aids in the digestion of fat in the intestine. It is used to make vitamin D and certain hormones, like estrogen and testosterone.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is the form in which cholesterol is carried from the liver to arteries and body tissues. Higher levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood can lead to a harmful buildup of cholesterol inside of artery walls. This buildup can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is often referred to as “good” cholesterol. It is the form in which cholesterol travels from body tissues back to the liver, where it is broken down and removed. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol in the blood can help prevent cholesterol buildup in arteries reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Dietary cholesterol is found in animal products, including:

  • Beef fat (tallow and suet), chicken fat, and pork fat (lard)
  • Dairy products (such as milk, cheese, and yogurt)
  • Egg yolks
  • Meats and poultry
  • Processed meat and poultry products (such as bacon, hot dogs, jerky, some luncheon meats, and sausages)
  • Shellfish (such as lobster and shrimp)
  • Spreads (such as butter, cream cheese, and sour cream)

Now for Dietitian speak:  When it comes to fat, try to choose foods with the least saturated fat and no trans fat on the label. Too much of these “unhealthy fats” can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Both saturated and trans fat are listed out on the label under total fat. This is important because fat has more than twice the calories of carbohydrate or protein per gram.

Some types of fats, such as mono and polyunsaturated fats are considered healthy fats, they come from a plant and are liquid at room temperature, like olive oil, corn oil, and sesame oil. Take the easy way out – you want more of the longer words and you want your fat choices to come from a plant.

Fats are supposed to be about 30% of your total daily calories, and we are supposed to have twice as many polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats as saturated fats.  Avoid the trans fats!!  Trim the solid fat from the edges of your meat products before cooking.  If you are buying a product with all the fats listed, choose a product that has twice as many poly and monounsaturated fats as saturated fats.  Because fat is so involved with so many hormonal and structural parts of the body, it is essential that you get the right amount of fat in your food plan.

If you have questions about this, please feel free to call or email me.

Blessings to you,


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