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Lowering Fat and Saturated Fat

Updated on January 23, 2018

Total Fat

Lower fat or lower carbohydrate? What's the priority? If you have diabetes, this is an important question to ask your doctor or dietitian. The answer will not be the same for everyone. The American Diabetes Association has recommended tailoring this diet advice to the unique profile each person with diabetes. What varies and plays off of each other are the carbohydrate vs. fat recommended as percentages of total calories. Protein provides calories but the recommended range (12%-20% of calories) does not vary.

For some people with diabetes, a higher carbohydrate diet (55%-60% of calories) is recommended. This is more likely to be true for patients who are on a low calorie diet for weight loss or for those who are very physically active. For these individuals, lowering fat by 20%-30% is important to make room for carbohydrate while maintaining calories within the recommended range.

For other patients, a lower carbohydrate diet (45%-55% of calories) is recommended. This might be true when blood sugars are hard to control, when protein must be limited or when calorie needs are very high overall. In these cases, fat intake is higher as a percent of calories (30-40% of calories) because fats, not protein, are preferred as the calorie balance to carbohydrate.

Saturated Fat

Unlike total fat, lowering saturated fat is always advised for people with diabetes, just as it is for all people living in western societies. Saturated fat is highly linked to cardiovascular diseases and some cancers. Following this advice is especially important when one's dietary fat is higher (above 30% of calories) because more total fat means more saturated fat, unless careful selections are made. Less than 10% of the calories should be from saturated fat. In more aggressive low saturated fat diets, less than 7% of the calories comes from saturated fat.

Fats that are high in saturated fatty acids are solid at room temperature. They include all animal fat except fish oils (beef fat, pork fat, lamb fat, poultry fat, milk fat, butter), tropical fats (coconut oil, palm oil, brazil nuts) and hydrogenated fats (shortening, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils).

By far, the preferred fats are those rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (olives, olive oil, canola oil, avocados and nuts - almonds,hazelnuts and pecans) and the omega-3 fats found in fish (salmon and tuna), canola oil and soy products.

Other fats are low in saturated fats but high in the polyunsaturated linoleic fatty acid. While these are fine to use in moderation, they should not be used exclusively for fat in the diet. Too much linoleic fatty acid may increase the risk of other health problems (cancer, impaired immune function). Foods high in linoleic acid include corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and spreads made from these oils.
Lowering Fat

There are three guidelines which are important to follow when working to lower the fat in your diet.

1. Select lower fat items from within each food group. Look for fat on food labels. Compare fat content of similar foods and select items with less per serving. Here are a few examples:

Instead of This:
Try this:
Grain Foods
Muffins, preferably whole wheat
English muffin
Low fat granola
Fried rice
Steamed rice
Crackers with 3 grams fat per ounce
Crackers with 0-1gram fat per ounce
Dairy Foods
Whole milk
1% or nonfat milk
Reduced fat cheese
Whole milk yogurt
Nonfat yogurt
Meats, Fish and Poultry
Ground Beef
Extra lean ground beef
Chicken with skin
Skinless light meat chicken
Turkey breast lunch meats
Pork sausage
Canadian bacon
Tuna packed in oil
Tuna packed in water
Spreads or condiments
Low fat mayonnaise
Reduced fat margarine
Sour cream
Fat free sour cream
Coffee cream
Low fat milk
Desserts and "Other Carbohydrates"
Fat free or low fat chip
Ice Cream
Low fat frozen dessert

2. Use only small amounts of spreads and seasonings that contain most, or all, of their calories as fat.

These include oils, butter, margarine, mayonnaise, sour cream, cream, nuts, nut butters, olives and avocados. Flavor foods with low fat condiments such as mustards, flavored vinegars, herbs and spices, fat free sour cream, salsa, and low fat sauces.

3. Use low fat cooking methods. Avoid deep fried foods like french fries. Limit use of oil for sautéing or stir frying foods. A 3-second spray of non-stick cooking spray into a fry pan provides some oil, but very little. That is often enough to start the cooking process of many foods previously sautéed (onions, garlic) in a lot of oil or to brown meats.

Low Fat Cooking Methods
Bake, broil, pan broil, barbecue, roast, microwave, Pressure-cook, steam, boil, simmer and poach.

Higher Fat Diets

While many people with diabetes are advised to lower fat in their diet, others are advised to raise it. If more calories are needed and too many carbohydrate calories are of concern, fat is the nutrient that must be increased. Increasing protein, the other calorie-containing nutrient, may not advised for many people since too much can tax the kidneys.

When extra calories are needed, higher fat diets are not unhealthy, as long as the type of fat added to the diet is low in saturated fat.

Lowering Saturated Fat

To lower saturated fat, it is important to know its sources. Saturated fats are stable, so often recognized because they stay solid at room temperature. Most animal fats (except fish oils) and tropical oils are saturated. Oils can be converted to the more stable, saturated fat known as shortening through the process of hydrogenation.

Here are some high saturated fat foods to limit and ideas for better food choices.

Fat Is Highly Saturated
A Better Alternative
Whole cow's milk
Nonfat or 1% Milk, Soy Milk
Nonfat or reduced fat cheese
Table spread with less than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving or Peanut butter, almond butter or Canola oil, olive oil, soy oil, peanut oil or safflower oil
Cream, Half and Half
Evaporated skim milk
Beef tallow, pork lard and lamb fat
Canola oil, olive oil, soy oil, peanut oil or safflower oil
Canola oil, olive oil, soy oil, peanut oil or safflower oil
Fatty cuts of red meat or poultry
Well-trimmed lean cuts of red meats, skinless poultry, fish and shellfish, tofu.
Coconut Milk
1% fat cow's milk flavored with coconut extract
Coconut Oil, Palm Oil
Canola oil, olive oil, soy oil, peanut oil or safflower oil
Chocolate, Cocoa Butter
Cocoa powder with or without canola oil, olive oil, soy oil added to replicate chocolate in a recipe.
Brazil nuts
Hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts, walnuts and pecans.
Ice Cream
Low fat frozen dessert, frozen low fat yogurt
Commercial pastries with partically-hydrogenated vegetable oil
Homemade bakery goods with canola oil, olive oil, soy oil, peanut oil or safflower oil
Cheese as snack or meal
Avocado, olives, guacamole condiments


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    Post Comment

    • krillfishhealing profile image

      Andy James 

      4 years ago from London

      Great article, loved the tables....people don't realise they 'need' fats in their diet. Great explanation.

    • cecileportilla profile image

      Cecile Portilla 

      4 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Hi yourbodyweight:

      Very well researched article on Fat and Saturated Fat. Great tables! Voted up!


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