Roach Coach: An Insight to Saturated, Unsaturated and Trans Fat

I remember the anticipation I would feel waiting for the roach coach to drive up to our busy office in the mornings at work.  The mere words of  breakfast burrito ringing in my ears shot a dose of salivation in my taste buds and my mouth watered as the “La Cocorocha” sounded at 8:30 every morning.  I certainly didn’t put two and two together at the time about the amount of grease and fat that were used in the preparation of my breakfast nor probably cared as quick and yummy were my only two requirements when it came to breakfast.  But as I am getting older I see my plumbing start to work differently and now that I am learning more about nutrition, I know better when it comes to the fats I put in my body.

You hear fat all over the news, taking Americans by storm as the leading cause of heart disease and clogged arteries, but come on, is all fat bad?  No!  Fat is necessary to absorb vitamins and distribute them throughout our body.  But like the witches in Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz there is ‘Glenda’ good fat and ‘Wicked Witch of the West’ bad fat.

The good fats that our bodies need are called unsaturated fats and come in the form of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.  These include fish, like salmon, nuts, like walnuts, and vegetable oils like corn, canola, and olive oils.  These fats can help you to lower bad cholesterol levels and your chances of getting heart disease.

Saturated fats are the bad fats and not even needed in our diets to sustain ourselves.  These are the fats that raise bad LDL cholesterol levels and that can lead to build-up in the arteries leading to heart disease and strokes.  These are the fats that become hard at room temperature and come from animal fats such as beef, lamb, pork and dairy such as butter.

So how much fat should we have in our daily diets?  The American Heart Association (AMA) recommends that we have 25-35% of fats coming from our total amount of calories.  Saturated fat should be only 7% of those calories.  Trans fat, the Wickedist Wicked fat there is- found in french fries, doughnuts, cookies, crackers, things like that should only be 1% of your calories.

So, lets pull out our calculators and put in some real-life perspective:  If you eat 2000 calories a day, 50-70 grams of fat should be coming from your total fats,  16 grams of fat should be coming from saturated fat and only 2 grams come from trans fat.  You can get the number of grams of each type of fat listed on the food labels from the food you eat.  Obviously it is harder to get the fat numbers from places you go out to eat because you don’t know what they are using to cook your food in like the grease from the roach coach, but some of these numbers can be Googled and a lot of restaurants now are being forced to have nutritional lists available.

Tips for those looking to change their fat-eating ways:  Switching to low-fat and fat-free versions of everything is a start: There are low-fat and fat-free versions of cheese, milk, yogurt, and creamer you have with your coffee in the mornings.  Fat-free also can be seen in salad dressings, mayo, and sweets such as cookies and cakes.  I’ve done the switch myself  and my taste buds are accustomed to the changes and honestly keeps me from having to working out harder on the treadmill.  Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and high fiber are the obvious things you can add to your diet to reduce cholesterol-raising fats.  Sneak in fruits for snacks and with meals; add vegetables and beans as toppings, and switch to breads that don’t have white, bleached, or flour listed as their first ingredient.  Replace crackers with nuts and seeds and if you do eat processed foods like boxed rice, look for the ones that use unhydrogenated oil, not the ones with partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils, as these are code for trans fats.  Tub butters are better than stick butters because they have less saturated and trans fat;  I use Smart Balance because there is added Omega 3’s that help lower blood pressure and improves joint health.

Now the hard truth: fried food, fast foods, and too much sweets are bad for you, but you already knew that- so keep it to a once-in-a-while thing. Also try to limit red meat once a week, switch to the lean meat versions and cut any fat off before cooking.

I cannot stress enough to read your labels!!  Pick foods that have 0 g of trans fats if you can and pick  brands that have the lowest amount of total and saturated fats before you put them in your basket. Remember the labels mean per serving size so if you have double what the serving size is listed on the package then that means ‘dos’ the amount of calories and grams of fat too!

I’m not sure if my fat and grease issues superceed my sanitation issues of eating from my beloved roach now looking back but I know one thing is for sure: Change is hard to do- so take realistic baby steps to kicking your Roach Coach addiction!

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