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Dietary Fat: A Proper Perspective
Everyone today seems to be trying to avoid dietary fat. But fat often takes a bad rap. The truth is that in itself, there is nothing wrong with dietary fat. It makes food taste better, it helps to distribute flavors throughout the mouth and keeps them there longer, and it provides texture. Fat also adds moisture to food, causing it literally to "melt in your mouth." And because you digest it slowly, it provides an enjoyable feeling of satisfaction after a meal. In addition, it promotes good health by providing essential fatty acids and transporting vitamins A, D, E and K.
Excessive dietary fat, however, is a health concern. A high-fat diet is linked to elevated cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis and the nation's leading ailmentobesity. The connection between diet and health/appearance is well documented and is the reason most Americans are so interested in reducing fat. Organizations such as the American Heart Association and the National Cancer Institute recommend eating a diet with less than 30% of calories from fat.
Given this concern, there's a wide-spread popular belief that the American diet has become substantially leaner in the last few years. "Not so," says Bonnie Liebman, a registered dietitian at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Today we get about 34% of calories from fat, so it appears that we're eating less than in the late 1970's when fat constituted over 40% of calories. But fat reduction is a myth. What we're eating today is not a lower-fat diet. It's a higher-calorie diet. We are actually eating slightly more fat today than in 1991, but we're taking in a lot more calories. So the percentage looks better, but the actual amount of fat has not fallen. And that's why we're not losing weight. The recommendation to cut back on fat means
just that: Eat less fat. If these numbers reflect what people are eating, we're in trouble."
The truth is that fatty foods, particularly restaurant foods like cheeseburgers, French fries, fried chicken, prime rib and Caesar salad, continue to be at the center of the American diet. Such foods are largely responsible for the fact that the average American eats between 800 and 1,000 calories every day as fat, or about the equivalent of one full stick of butter. As one doctor put it, "This is a nation that discusses its weight problems over Danish pastry!"
Is it possible, then, to live a modern lifestyle and still trim fat from restaurant foods? The answer is yes.
Excerpted from The Fat-Gram Guide To Restaurant Food (2nd edition). Copyright. Reprinted with permission by Workman Publishing.