Can't We Just Swap Out Bad Fats for Good Fats?

Health Writer

Seems pretty intuitive"" If you are being told by health professionals to   "lose the bad fat" as in trans fat and saturated fat, and embrace the "good fat," as in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, especially heart-healthy omega-3 fats, then what's the problem?   Let food manufacturers and home cooks stop using butter and lard and other similar fats, and use olive oil and vegetable oil and functional fats like Benecol, right?   The concept may sound easy but it can also present some challenges.   A recent article explored this very question.

Why isn't the swap out solution simple? Well for one thing, bad fats taste really good.   Eat them often enough and that texture and taste becomes your new standard.   Everything you then choose to eat, gets compared to that delecatable standard.   You will find that many healthier and tastier foods may not measure up, unless you ditch the unhealthy fats for quite a bit of time.   Not as easy as it sounds.   Then there's the availability of these tasty, unhealthy fats.   Though there has been a great effort by food manufacturers to reduce trans fats, which are considered the most dangerous fats in terms of their impact on heart health, saturated fats (called artery-clogging fats) really help to provide important features in specific food products.   Saturated fats add "functionality" to many recipes, by contributing texture, structure, flavor, lubrication and in some cases, by allowing a recipe to stabilize, as in ice cream.   That means that sometimes, you just can't easily swap out a saturated fat for a healthier fat.

So one solution is to swap out an unhealthy fat ingredient for a healthier fat when it's possible.   Salad dressings, marinades, certain baking recipes may allow for an easy fat ingredient replacement.   For those foods and recipes where a saturated fat lends an important contribution, simply choose to use sensible portion control, and make a mindful choice to not eat the food too often.   That may be easier said than done for many people, who turn to these foods as a form of therapy.

The very nature of the foods we use as comfort foods, is the fact that they are typically high in unhealthy fats, and when you're in emotional upheaval, the last thing you are contemplating when you're grabbing these foods for solace, is portion control.   That's why it's a bad idea to have these foods easily accessible.   A much better idea is to have small, pre-portioned servings of treats for that unfortunate moment when you choose food medication, or maybe try to mostly stock your frig and pnatry with better-for-you foods that are low in calorie and tasty - air popped popcorn, fruit, Greek yogurt plus topping, high fiber waffles and low sugar nut butter, even sugar free gum.   You still shouldn't over eat them, but at least these choices are lower in calories, and also lower in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats.

Some fat ingredient swap outs that may work:

  • Instead of sautéing with oil, try low sodium vegetable or chicken broth or wine
  • Instead of stir frying with oil or butter, use olive oil or vegetable oil sprays.
  • Instead of butter in some baking recipes, try pureed fruit (unsweetened applesauce, apple butter, mashed bananas, and pureed prunes which are fabulous in brownie recipes).
  • To replace heavy cream, try evaporated skim milk, soy milk or pureed cashews (and water).
  • When making creamy soups and sauces, try non-fat strained yogurt, non-fat Greek yogurt, pureed roasted vegetables.
  • Use flavored vinegars in a 4:1 ration with healthier oils for salad dressing, and try diluting even further with small amounts of fresh juice.
  • When you do need oil, see if olive oil, vegetable oil (soybean oil), nut oil or canola oil will work in the recipe.

This is a case of leaning towards the use of healthier fat when it works in a recipe, being mindful of how much of a presence of unhealthy trans fats or saturated fats are currently in your diet, and developing a new habit of using portion control when you mindfully choose a treat or food that does indeed contain unhealthy fats.

Amy Hendel is a Physician Assistant and Health Coach, journalist and host of Food Rescue, Simple Smoothies and What's for Lunch?_   Author of  Fat Families, Thin Families and** The 4 Habits of Healthy Families**, she tweets health headlines daily @HealthGal1103.   Catch her guest appearances on local and national news and talk shows, and check out her website.  Follow my blogs at:  _

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