Enjoy Healthy Fat with Each Meal
For many people, there is unease when eating any types of fats. Certainly all fats have a higher calorie content then the other major calorie-containing nutrients such as carbohydrates and protein. But there are health advantages to including some fat to your fat.
Besides adding fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, and E, and K, fats provide other essential nutrients such as the omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linoleic acid or ALA. International researchers looked at 41 studies published over a 30-year period related to ALA in the diet. From these studies 120,000 people, ages 18-98 years, were monitored for a period of time ranging from two to 32 years. This study was published in the British Medical Journal.
Sources of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), an omega 3 fatty acid, include:
- Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
- Soybeans, soybean oil, tofu and other soy foods
- Walnuts and walnut oil
- Pumpkin seeds
- Canola oil
The researchers found that those people with a high ALA dietary intake and therefore, higher blood levels of ALA, had a lower risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. Researchers noted that there seemed to be a dose response; that is, a higher intake of the fatty acid ALA meant a lower risk of mortality (death) from heart disease. It should be noted this was an observational study and not cause-and-effect so further research is important.
Including small servings of fats at most meals has an added benefit. Fats provide satiety to a meal; in other words, we feel more satisfied after that meal, and the meal keeps us full longer. How could food sources of ALA fats be included in menu planning? Here are some ideas:
- If you enjoy hot or cold cereal for breakfast, a handful of chopped walnuts, pumpkin seeds or ground flaxseed is a good start to the day.
- Homemade granola can include a variety of nuts and pumpkin seeds.
- Canola oil mayonnaise can be a tasty spread on your lunchtime sandwich.
- Walnut oil is a bit pricy but a small drizzle over a salad or cooked vegetables is delicious.
About the Author
Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.
By: Rita P. Smith, MS, RD, CDE, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital