Coconut Oil - Healthy Diets

With the official opening of the summer season coming up this week-end, it's a good time to get ready for the beach. Don't forget the sun block! While you're enjoying the summer sun (and browning yourself safely!) consider that tropical oils like cocoa butter and coconut oil make better ingredients for tanning lotion than they do in the foods you eat.

Fat in Foods

Reading food labels is a good place to start educating yourself on the fat in foods. Food labels in the U.S. provide information on the total fat, and the breakdown of saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and monounsaturated fat, as well as cholesterol content. It can be a little confusing though because:

Foods that are labeled "cholesterol-free" or "no cholesterol" may contain a lot of saturated fat.

Foods labeled "low fat" may contain a lot of cholesterol

Foods that advertise "cooked in 100% vegetable oil" may contain a lot of saturated fat.

For people who are trying to eat less fat or trying to choose better types of fats, interpreting labels can be a real challenge. Misleading advertising and poorly interpreted research studies make it more difficult to choose the right foods. So, here are some basic rules to remember:

Both cholesterol and saturated fat should be limited for good heart health. Do not let people tell you that you don't need to watch the amount of cholesterol in the diet! Too much cholesterol and too much saturated fat raise the blood cholesterol - it's just that saturated fat is more potent. Both dietary cholesterol and saturated fat block the LDL receptors in the liver that help remove cholesterol in the blood and this raises blood cholesterol levels. The expert panel of the National Cholesterol Education Program suggests that people limit cholesterol to 300 mg or less per day, and those at risk should limit cholesterol to 200 mg per day.

Cholesterol is only found in animal foods, or foods that contain animal foods. So, if it swims, walks, crawls, or flies, it contains cholesterol. No plant foods contain cholesterol unless they are mixed with animal foods. So, baked goods that contain egg yolks or dairy products contain cholesterol from the animal foods in them.

There are many types of saturated fat. Most animal fats (butter, lard, meat fat, dairy fat) contain a lot of artery-blocking saturated fat. But worse still are the highly saturated fats in tropical oils such as coconut oil and palm oil, found in many processed foods like baked goods, store-bought snacks and desserts.

Hydrogenation or partial hydrogenation is a process that makes some good fats bad. It improves the shelf life of fat and changes the texture of the fat, but it makes the food more harmful to eat. This process also increases "trans fats" which acts like cholesterol and naturally saturated fats to raise cholesterol levels in the blood. Avoid these fats!

To keep the cholesterol, saturated fat, and total fat within healthy limits, follow your personal diet plan. It is designed to help you eat the right amount and the right type of animal foods so that you get the protein and other nutrients you need without raising your blood cholesterol levels. Your guidelines for fats will help you choose good fats and keep your fat intake within the amounts that are right for your own calorie needs, whether you are trying to lose weight, gain muscle, or maintain weight through a healthy diet.

This summer, use tropical fats to help block the sun, not your arteries!