The Skinny On Fats

Fats that fit a healthy diet

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Pictured above is the Pasta Alla Pecan (left) and the Zesty Pecan Salad Dressing.

Yes, some fats can fit into a healthy diet. Our bodies actually require them. The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend 20 to 35 percent of calories come from fats, predominantly unsaturated ones. They deliver certain vitamins, provide essential fatty acids and are a source of fuel.

But it’s easy to get confused about the different kinds of fats, where they come from and how much of them to eat. So here are some fat facts to keep things straight.

The Bad:

Saturated fats are found in animal products like meat, poultry skin, eggs and high-fat dairy products. Saturated fats are also found in high quantities in vegetable oils that stay solid at room temperature, such as coconut and palm oil. The American Heart Association recommends that only about 7 percent of calories should come from saturated fats.

Trans fats come in two forms. Natural trans fats are found in small amounts in dairy and meat. Artificial trans fats are made when liquid oils are hardened into solid form, called “partially hydrogenated” fats. These are in baked goods, packaged snack foods, some margarines, icings and crackers. Even small amounts of artificial trans fats can increase bad cholesterol and put you at risk for heart disease. The Dietary Guidelines recommend keeping trans fat consumption as low as possible.

The Good:

Good fats are unsaturated. These include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. When eaten in moderation, they can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Polyunsaturated fats

• are found in most vegetable oils

• include a plant-based, heart-healthy omega-3 found in flax, pecans and canola oil

• include an omega-6 that is important for the skin, found in canola oil, pecans and poultry

Monounsaturated fats

• may help protect the heart by lowering bad cholesterol when used in place of saturated fats

• are typically a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E

• are found abundantly in olives, avocados, canola oil and pecans

While all fats and oils have the same amount of calories per gram, you can make those calories work for you by making nutrient-rich choices. When you know the skinny on fats, getting the good ones into delicious family-friendly meals is easy.

Canola oil

• has the best nutritional balance of any popular cooking oil

• is cholesterol free and has no trans fat

• is one of the best plant sources of omega-3 fat

Find more information at canolainfo.org.

pecans

• are the highest in antioxidant capacity of all nuts

• have more than 19 vitamins and minerals

• are high in fiber and a good source of protein

Find more information at texaspecans.org.

Nuttin’ Better Sauce

Makes 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups

This versatile spread can be used on its own, on a platter with cheese and vegetables, blended into dips and as a healthy ingredient in many savory dishes.

1 roasted red pepper

1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup pecan halves

1/4 cup canola oil

Salt to taste

Add red pepper, bread crumbs, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, red pepper flakes, and pecans to food processor. Pulse once or twice just to blend ingredients.

Add canola oil and blend ingredients to form smooth consistency. Add salt to taste.

Sauce can be stored in refrigerator, covered, for up to one week.

Pasta Alla Pecan

Makes 4 to 5 servings

1/2 pound linguini

3/4 to 1 cup Nuttin’ Better Sauce

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Cook linguini following package instructions. Drain and reserve 3 to 4 tablespoons cooking water.

Return pasta to pot and place over low heat. Add sauce. Stir to coat linguini. If needed, add reserved pasta water to thin sauce. Serve immediately, garnished with chopped pecans.

Middle Eastern Vegetarian Pizza

Makes 4 servings

2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 medium size eggplant, sliced into 2-inch-by-4-inch slices

1/2 medium size zucchini, cut into 2-inch-by-4-inch slices

1/2 medium red onion, cut into wedges

1/2 small red pepper, cut into 2-inch-by-1/2-inch pieces

1/2 small yellow pepper, cut into 2-inch-by-1/2-inch pieces

1/2 small orange pepper, cut into 2-inch-by-1/2-inch pieces

4, 6-inch whole wheat tortillas

4 to 6 tablespoons Nuttin’ Better Sauce

10 to 15 cherry tomatoes, halved

2 to 3 tablespoons grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil.

Pour canola oil into large bowl. Toss vegetables (except tomatoes) with canola oil until well coated. Layer on foil-lined baking sheet and roast for approximately 20 to 25 minutes or until vegetables are soft and slightly browned. Remove from oven. Set aside.

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