Wednesday, February 10, 2010

the big fat question

Working the Give Kids a Smile dental clinic this past weekend (and playing calcium Twister for 7 hrs) was a perfect precursor to my renal rotation this week. Calcium is one of the key markers we watch in this population, in addition to phosphorus, potassium, albumin, and PTH (parathyroid hormone).


In other news, meet my new favorite oatmeal topper, which ties nicely into today’s post topic:


Aha, but it’s not regular peanut butter. Mixing equal parts PB + Almond Breeze is my new fave thing…food processors are magical.

Since I’m slowly making my way through the macronutrients [see carbohydrates here], I figured I continue with fat, which has taken its fair share of slams throughout history.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the types, amounts, and sources of fat and its contribution to disease. When things get confusing, I find it helpful to go back to what I know….the basics.


[demystifying fat: part I-types of fat]

We talk about it all the time, but what exactly is fat?

Fat is a type of lipid (the other type is oil).  Most dietary fat is found in triglyceride form, and the body also stores fat as triglycerides (TG).

Do we really need triglycerides?

YES….for storage of energy, insulation, and transport of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K). TG are the main fuel for muscles while at rest and during light activity. During endurance exercise and short bursts of intense activity, the muscles also use lots of carbs + fatty acids from triglycerides.

Two basic types of fatty acids exist: 

1:: unsaturated fatty acids: liquid at room temperature

sat fat


  • sources: safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, and soybean oil
  • also includes the essential fatty acids: omega 6 (poultry, avocado, eggs, soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, vegetable oils) & omega-3 (salmon & fish oil, flax seed, walnuts)
  • we generally get plenty of omega-6 in our diets, and omega-3 fatty acids are linked to decreased inflammation and blood clots.


  • sources: canola oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts, etc.

2:: saturated fatty acids: solid at room temperature


  • sources: mostly animal sources-dairy & meat, baked goods, fried food, *coconut oil [does not contain cholesterol]

Why are saturated fats labeled as more harmful than unsaturated fats?

Fat’s negative connotation is derived from its link to heart disease. Saturated fatty acids have the greatest effect on increasing cholesterol levels, which are linked to the incidence of coronary atherosclerosis and increased risk of coronary heart disease [side note: I have explored some alternatives to this viewpoint, which will be discussed later].

However, something to note:

Big misconception: saturated fats get stuck in the arteries, clogging them and leading to heart disease.

Truth: inflammation (which can be triggered by many factors) leads to the formation of plaque, which can rupture and cause cardiovascular events.

Is saturated fat the worst kind?

Trans fat is the worst kind of fat to consume because it raises LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and lowers HDL (“good” cholesterol). TF is also linked to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 1% of total calorie intake from trans fats. I’d say, eliminate them all together if you can.

What are the current recommendations for dietary fat?

In general: No RDA for fat exists. In dietetics, we generally recommend that fat compose 20-35% of total calories with < 7% saturated fat (2005 Dietary Guidelines say under 10%),  <10% of calories from polyunsaturated fat, and <20% from monounsaturated fat.

{sources: *Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: dietary fatty acids. Kris-Etherton PM, Innis S,J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 Sep;107(9):1599-611. *Wardlaw, G. (2003). Contemporary Nutrition. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.}

Now, that we’ve cleared up some of the basic fat info, we can move on to some more complex issues…like medium chain triglycerides and why I advocate the use of coconut oil, a saturated fat.

As always, comment if you still have questions…see you soon for part II.



  1. sooo intersting! loved reading htis! so do u just mix PB and almond milk in the food processor or blender? looks good!

  2. Wow,, creamy PB/AB looks great. I'll have to try that with my food processor.

  3. I eat quite a bit of fat. I'm not sure of grams or percentages, but I have some at every single meal and snack and I feel so much better with it! Not sure why, but maybe you have ideas?

  4. Thanks, Emily!! Really helpful!

  5. great info about fat! I learned a lot from you Emily, I even started to add coconut oil as staple... it's delicious!
    what's your proportion to make PB and Almond Milk? it looks like a cream!!!

  6. Very informative post! I used to be scared of fats in my diet but finally knocked some sense into me. I eat alot of walnuts, salmon, and olive oil now. Loving my fat!

  7. Thanks for the info- I love these kinds of posts!

    I have a question... I know dairy products can be high in saturated fat, but I heard that it's needed? Not all the time (as a main source of fat) but particularly in recovery from eating disorders/refeeding, dairy saturated fat is a good thing?

  8. I love mixing PB and almond butter with greek yogurt too. It's wonderful for dipping apples or anything really. tastes as good with less calories. I'm excited to try it with the almond breeze though. Just started reading your blog and love it.

  9. Peanut butter and almond breeze sounds so good! I'll have to try it!

  10. Thanks for demystifying all the different fats.

    And PB plus almond breeze? I've never tried the latter, but your mix looks pretty tasty!

  11. PB + almond breeze...must try that. Interesting info on fats...thank you.

  12. wow thats an awesome idea of blending up PB & almond breeze! thats a perfect topping for like...everything!

    twister for 7 hours? YES PLEASE!

  13. i love all the fat info!! and this PB-AB topper is such a great idea...looks so creamy!!

  14. I love how informative your posts are!!! It also makes me appreciate all the molecular bio I forgot from years past ;P

    I may have questions later as I digest this information (no pun intended ;)) but I'm really looking forward to your next post on this topic too!

  15. great post, so many people are confused/misinformed about fats you do a great job of explaining!

  16. great post! I saw that mix a little while ago and I have to try it mmm I could put that on practically anything :) have a good weekend!

  17. PB & Almond Breeze? Ill have to try that!


  18. Wow, this is such a great post Em! I think it's so important to not be scared of fat as a whole, but work out which is good and which isn't which you're helping demystify! I have a question: I've often heard the statement that "only animal fat has cholesterol". Is this true? And does this make them all ok?

  19. Oops, I meant, does this make all non-animal fats okay?

  20. Great post! It is sad that many people think low fat is "healthy". Fat is an essential part of the diet that many people tend to overlook. Thanks for the great info!

  21. emily,i always enjoy reading your posts....i am always seeking to be a better consumer and in doing so i hope my little people are learning how to feed themselves in a healthier manner too!

  22. great post girlie

    happy valentines


  23. really awesome post girl. Oh btw Im loving the OB and almond breeze mixture. What an awesome idea! Do you have to keep the leftovers in the fridge? I eat a good amoun of fat but I make sure that it is all from natural sources. Almond butter, fish, olive oils..that kind of thing. I just try and stay away from manufactured and processed foods anyways. I *used* to think that fat was something that you needed to cut back on when trying to lose/maintain weight but boy was I wrong! Now I make sure to get enough in my diet. Thanks for clearing up and explaining the different types. Cant wait to read more! Have an awesome day!

  24. this is very informative. Thank you for sharing.

  25. OH YUM! I love mixing my pb with almond milk... + cereal...+ banana ;)

    hope youre doing well
    bec xo

  26. I love fat mostly in nut form. I get the majority of my fats in nuts...and I eat a LOT of nuts. Great and informative post, Emily! I love that you dispel some misunderstandings and misconceptions!

  27. PB and almond breeze sound like an awesome oatmeal topper! or just an awesome thing by itself LOL

    love this post, very informative!

  28. PB and almond breeze?? HOLY MOLY ! you are a genius! must make some of this asap! i want to eat it with a spoon on my couch :) lol

  29. Very nice post, Emily. I try to get people to understand that it's TRANS fat that is the devil..but sometimes it's hard to get people to believe me. They are hooked on the notion that saturated fat is awful. Oh well, as long as they are eating some fat, I'm happy.
    I love your idea of mixing pb and almond milk, it looks yummy. Remember when we first started at OSU and I told you I was hooked on cold cereal for breakfast? I told you it was strange to eat oats every morning...remember? Well, now I'm hooked on oats!! I'll never go back. Well, at least not for a while :)

  30. btw, i nominated you for a blogger award (check it out @ my blog).

    if you could also talk about different oils (e.g., hydrogenated, etc) and their consequences one day, that'd be awesome! hope you're doing well!

  31. I want you to win that blogger award! I hear the word "cream" and I think "no, no, no!" Sugar is the new "fat" and I think sometimes even though I know I shouldn't I fear the "fat" part. Isn't that just lame?

  32. Great info! THanks for sharing! Fat is so trendy right now, as funny as that sounds. It's all the rage in the blog world!
    Love the idea of mixing pb and milk!
    Have a great Wenesday!


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