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Learn About Fat Digestion

Lesson Six Continued


Updated June 14, 2014

Choosing Healthy Fats

Getting enough fat in the diet is usually not much of a problem -- most of the time people eat too much fat.

Some fats are better than others. Eat more foods with the omega-3 fatty acids.

Use canola oil for cooking. It has a mild flavor, and is high in omega-3 fats. Canola oil also works nicely for making your own salad dressing, such as this flavorful Ginger Salad Dressing.

Soy oil is another good choice for dressings.

Use olive oil. It contains a healthful fat called oleic acid that has been shown to be good for your heart and cardiovascular system. Olive oil is good for cooking and for use as a salad oil.

Eat walnuts and pumpkin seeds at snack time. They contain omega-3 fats and walnut oil also has a wonderful flavor. Sprinkle them on top of your favorite green vegetables or salads.

Grind flax seeds in a coffee grinder. Flax seeds contain omega-3 fats. Buy whole seeds and grind them at home so you can sprinkle them on salads, or vegetables. Flax seed oil can be used cold on toast or as a dressing, but it's too delicate to use for cooking. It breaks down quickly at high temperatures.

Eat fish. Oily ocean fish, like salmon, contain the most omega-3 fats. Pack a tuna sandwich on whole grain bread instead of a salami or bologna sandwich. Take it easy on the mayo or use a light mayo. Buy "omega eggs." Hens fed a diet enriched with omega-3 fats lay eggs with high omega-3 content.

What About Bad Fats?

Avoiding unhealthy fats is just as important and eating the good fats. The bad fats, primarily trans fats and saturated fats, are common in a typical Western diet. Saturated fats are found in meat, with the largest amounts found in fatty red meat like beef.

Trans-fats are created by the partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils and can be found in stick margarine, processed foods, pastries and frying oils.

Read the labels of packaged foods when you shop for groceries. The FDA requires that the amount of trans-fats be recorded there.

Saturated fats are found mostly in meats, but also coconut oil, palm oil and dairy products. A diet high in saturated fat is bad for your cardiovascular system. Keep your meat consumption down to no more than three small servings (about three to four ounces) per week. Drink low-fat or non-fat milk instead of whole milk, and choose low-fat cheese instead of regular cheese.

Chicken, turkey, and game meat such as venison and grass-fed beef are lower in total fat and saturated fat so choose more of these meats and less fatty red beef. It's even better if the animals were raised organically.

Some foods with the highest amounts of unhealthy fats include processed lunch meats, sausage, bacon, pastries, packaged snacks, cookies, canned pasta and ravioli meals, fried foods and many frozen dinners.

Read labels and choose the foods with the lowest amounts of  trans and saturated fats, or better yet, skip them altogether. Choose roasted chicken instead of fried, baked fish instead of breaded fish sticks, and eat pretzels or baked whole grain crackers instead of greasy chips.

Fat Content of Common Foods

  • one cup low fat milk - 2.4 grams total fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 12 mg cholesterol
  • three ounces canned tuna - 0.7 grams total fat, 0.2 grams saturated fat, 0.24 g omega-3 fatty acid, 26 mg cholesterol
  • one batter-fried chicken leg - 25.5 grams total fat, 6.8 grams saturated fat, 142 grams cholesterol
  • one ounce (14 halves) walnuts - 18.5 grams total fat, 2.5 grams monounsaturated fat, 13.4 grams polyunsaturated fat
  • one-half cup navy beans - 0.56 grams total fat, 0.3 grams polyunsaturated fat, 0 cholesterol
  • one broiled sirloin steak - 33 grams total fat, 12.8 grams saturated fat, 248 mg cholesterol
  • one-half cup avocado cubes - 11 grams total fat, 1.6 grams saturated fat, 7.3 grams monounsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol
  • one half-cup roasted chicken breast meat - 2.5 grams total fat, 0.71 grams saturated fat, 60 mg cholesterol
  • three ounce salmon fillet - 10.5 grams total fat, 2.1 grams saturated fat, 1.8 grams omega-3 fatty acid, 54 mg cholesterol
  • one teaspoon flax seeds - 4.3 grams total fat, 2.9 grams omega-3 fatty acid, 0 mg cholesterol
  • one three ounce pork chop - 11.1 grams total fat, 4.1 grams saturated fat, 70 mg cholesterol
  • one piece of apple pie - 19.4 grams total fat, 4.7 grams saturated fat, 5.0 grams polyunsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database

This Week's Assignment

This week your assignment is to choose a food with some omega-3 fats every day. Some examples include a serving of fish, flax seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, canola oil or omega eggs.

This Week's Quiz

You can test your knowledge of fats with this quiz: Quiz Six - Fat Digestion and Choosing Healthy Fats

This is lesson six. The last lesson of the basic nutrition - macronutrients e-course. You may sign up for the whole e-course at Basic Nutrition - Macronutrients


USDA. "National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference." Release 20. September 2007.

Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. "Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism." Fourth Edition. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth Pub Co. 2005.

Otten JJ, Hellwig JP, Meyers LD. "Dietary Reference Intakes: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements." IOM, 2006.

Harvard School of Public Health. "Fats & Cholesterol." 2007.

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