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Nutrition Column

Saturated fat is key

If there is but one nutrient to check for in your diet, on food labels, as the culprit for weight gain, as the reason for your elevated blood cholesterol levels, for your poor glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, and more ... saturated fat is it.

No other nutrient plays such a pivotal role in your health, or bad health, as does saturated fat.

When the Pritikin Longevity Center first opened and the regression diet was proposed dietary cholesterol was thought to be the evil nutrient which had the most negative impact on your health. They recommended restricting dietary cholesterol along with all fat - hence their less than ten percent of calories from fat recommendation.

Well, times have changed and more is known. Since cholesterol is found in foods of animal origin, only, cutting it out meant eating primarily a plant based diet. And people got healthier doing so.

In the process of limiting cholesterol intake though those followers were severely restricting their saturated fat intake. Subsequent research has found that not only is the original regression diet very hard to comply to, and the followers are often constantly fighting hunger, but that it was actually the saturated fat in the animal products which had a greater impact on blood cholesterol levels than dietary cholesterol did.

And as I mentioned in the opening paragraph saturated fat has a host of other negative effects on your body - from increased disease risk to increased fat storage. So if there is no other nutrient you look for in foods, on their labels, or that you limit in your diet let it be saturated fat.

If you are looking for more things to keep track of, here are some more:

1) Limit hydrogenated oils (trans fats) - they are as bad if not worse than saturated fat. But that is another story and another post.
2) Increase soluble fiber intake to >25 grams per day and total fiber to > 50 grams per day.
3) Raise mono-unsaturated fat intake to ten to 15 percent of caloric intake level.
4) Increase omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio to at least 1:2, or better yet, 1:1.
5) Increase your activity level daily - and remember steps do count.

Written by Dr. Sternlicht for on 1.27.06