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You may reason that if some fats are healthier than other fats, why not consume as much healthy fat as desired? Remember, everything in moderation. As we review the established guidelines for daily fat intake, the importance of balancing fat consumption with proper fat sources will be explained.
The acceptable macronutrient distribution range (AMDR) from the Dietary Reference Intake Committee for adult fat consumption is as follows:Institute of Medicine. “Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients.” Accessed October 5, 2012. http://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRIs/DRI _Macronutrients.pdf
The current AMDR for child and adolescent fat consumption (for children over four) are as follows:
Population-based studies of American diets have shown that intake of saturated fat is more excessive than intake of trans fat and cholesterol. Saturated fat is a prominent source of fat for most people as it is so easily found in animal fats, tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil, and full-fat dairy products. Oftentimes the fat in the diet of an average young person comes from foods such as cheese, pizza, cookies, chips, desserts, and animal meats such as chicken, burgers, sausages, and hot dogs. To aim for healthier dietary choices, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends choosing lean meats and vegetable alternatives, choosing dairy products with low fat content, and minimizing the intake of trans fats. The AHA guidelines also recommend consuming fish, especially oily fish, at least twice per week.American Heart Association. “Frequently Asked Questions About Fish.” http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/General/Frequently-Asked-Questions-About-Fish _UCM_306451_Article.jsp. These more appropriate dietary choices will allow for enjoyment of a wide variety of foods while providing the body with the recommended levels of fat from healthier sources. Evaluate the following sources of fat in your overall dietary pattern:
Enjoy a delicious vegetable burger with carrot sticks as an alternative to a traditional beef hamburger with French fries.
Recall that the body requires fatty acids and is adept at synthesizing the majority of these from fat, protein, and carbohydrate. However, when we say essential fatty acid we are referring to the two fatty acids that the body cannot create on its own, namely, linolenic acidAn omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for human health. and linoleic acidAn omega-6 fatty acid that is essential for human health..
As our food choices evolve, the sources of omega-6 fatty acids in our diets are increasing at a much faster rate than sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are plentiful in diets of nonprocessed foods where grazing animals and foraging chickens roam free, eating grass, clover, alfalfa, and grass-dwelling insects. In contrast, today’s western diets are bombarded with sources of omega-6. For example, we have oils derived from seeds and nuts and from the meat of animals that are fed grain. Vegetable oils used in fast-food preparations, most snack-foods, cookies, crackers, and sweet treats are also loaded with omega-6 fatty acids. Also, our bodies synthesize eicosanoids from omega-6 fatty acids and these tend to increase inflammation, blood clotting, and cell proliferation, while the hormones synthesized from omega-3 fatty acids have just the opposite effect.
While omega-6 fatty acids are essential, they can be harmful when they are out of balance with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fats are required only in small quantities. Researchers believe that when omega-6 fats are out of balance with omega-3 fats in the diet they diminish the effects of omega-3 fats and their benefits. This imbalance may elevate the risks for allergies, arthritis, asthma, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and many types of cancer, autoimmunity, and neurodegenerative diseases, all of which are believed to originate from some form of inflammation in the body. The recommendations for the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids vary from 5:1 to 10:1.
What does this mean for you? If your diet is low in omega-3 fats to begin with, then most of your essential fatty acids are from omega-6s. Stop. Do not set up a proinflammatory environment. Attaining proper balance between omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids means learning to make healthy choices and replacing bad fats with good ones that promote health and well-being.