Basic Nutrition 101: Fats


When it comes to the term “fat”, many cover in fear or in embarrassment of  what our bodies are simply storing for survival’s sake. But when it comes to dietary fat, what is it really and what do you need to know to make sure you don’t become the fitting description for the word “FAT”.
Here’s 5 things about fats you should know!

1) All fats are high in energy.

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The immediate reason why people say don’t eat too much fat.

Aside from feeling “greasy”, the important matter at hand is calories, 9Kcal to be exact for every 1g of fat you chow down.

That’s more than twice the amount energy provided from 1g of carbs or protein.

So let’s put things into perspective, when you take say around 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise or vinaigrette, let’s average things out to around 2 teaspoon of fat, that’s 10g, 90 kcal for 1 spoon, and everyone knows you don’t only take 1 tablespoon of mayo when you’re dipping fries (which has more fat) or God knows what into it, now do we?
So in essence, fat = energy dense, when eaten too much, converts to spare tyres around the belly!

2) There’s more than 1 type of fats, some good, some “not so good” and some just down right bad.

So, what kind of fats are there?
Mainly, there’s 3, saturated, unsaturated and trans fat.

Let’s start with saturated fats.

Saturated fats are dense solid fats in room temperature. The word “saturated” is used to describe the chemical structure of these fats where all of the carbon atoms are “saturated” with hydrogen atoms with no double bonds. (not important).

These types of fats are general animal fats, so things like lard, tallow and schmaltz are all fine animal sources of saturated fats. There is also vegetable fats that are also saturated and that is coconut oil & Palm oil.

Now these fats have once been demonized to be unhealthy due to its relations to increasing your risk for heart disease. While new evidence shows that saturated fats aren’t the necessarily the only naughty little kink towards our health, we’d still recommend to keep this food to a minimal . So here’s where choosing lean cuts, or being smart in cooking comes in.

Trans fat on the other hand, is a type of fat synthetically created by a process called hydrogenation and was created in effort to replace saturated fats (back when Sat. fats was demonized), however, studies showed it not only did not work, it made things work with multiple correlation to increase in heart diseases and even certain cancers and abnormalities.

In this rare instance, is where we tell you, stay AWAY from trans fat and never touch it, things like margarine and shortening. The best is to read the ingredient lists on food labels and look out for “hydrogenated” or “trans” fat.

Unsaturated fats, AKA the healthy fats are the ones we need to primarily used for our daily fat intake. Unsaturated fats can be branched into a few more categories but that’s another story. Essentially, use vegetable based oils (this doesn’t mean to use a gallon every time you cook, try to limit to 1-2 teaspoon per pax per meal), and take your fish! 3 times a week at least please!

3) Choosing your sources of fats matters to your health.

So as mentioned in point number 2, and if you’re too lazy to read the whole dang point. Here’s the take away for your pantry oil staples.

Stick with vegetable oils and have a variety, safflower/canola/sunflower all good, but also have corn and olive. They’re both unsaturated, but have their own differences which are required by our health. So have them in small quantities (if you don’t cook too often, otherwise they oxidize) and change it up throughout the week.

The facts on fats

Source: American Heart Association

Minimise fatty meats and stick with lean as much as possible, and stay AWAY from trans fats like margarine or shortening or anything with “hydrogenated” or “trans fats’ in their ingredient list.

4) Low fat is the way to go, but not replaced with sugars.

Back to the low fat diet story, so years ago, when the low fat diet was introduced, everyone had the idea that it was the perfect diet but after years passed, incidences of heart diseases, diabetes and obesity were still on the rise. So what gives?

Now, aside from the decrease in fat intake, we need to see the situation as a whole, what happened to those missing calories? What was compensated in return? The answer: Carbs. Simple carbs.

So here’s the deal, the idea of a low fat diet is good, lower cholesterol intake, lower caloric intake, but replacing them with carbs (excessively< >60% of daily caloric intake), simple carbs (sugary foods) for that matter ain’t a good idea.
If you take a close look at the industry at that time, low fat foods were in the market, but to compensate for mixing texture and flavor, industrialist were immediately led to sugar as a substitute. Look at the caloric intake, the carbohydrates intake, and you’ll find something interesting missing dots.
Don’t go crazy on fats, go low (you’ll get enough), but don’t replace them with sugary snacks.
Always read food labels, especially if an item is low in fat, make sure the sugar/carbs are not excessive as well (15-30g per serving for a snack is fine, without any add ons).

5) 2-3 teaspoons of added visible good fat per meal per person.

Now how do we go low fat?
My suggestion?
Now after years of self learning to cook in the culinary arts, and working in restaurants. It is very counter intuitive to do this.
But start off with good cooking ware, a good non-stick skillet or a well seasoned cast iron or carbon steel pan is the way to go.
Always minimise addition of oil when starting to cook, I always limit by using teaspoons and only use tablespoons when I’m cooking for more than 4 people, I tend to use 1-2 teaspoon for a simple cook up, and I will add on later when serving as a flavor enhancer.
For example, stir fried vegetables, 1 teaspoon of oil goes in too the hot pan, everything is fried then i add 1 teaspoon of sesame oil at the end and coat.

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It’s not overly difficult once you start understanding the concept.

Staying healthy & keep cooking!

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