The Average American Diet

Fats are a vital part of a balanced diet. They are an important source of energy and are an essential element in proper growth and development. Fat is the most concentrated source of our energy.

When our body satisfies its energy needs, the unused energy sources are stored as fatty tissue. These stored deposits of fat aid in insulating the body, cushioning vital organs and sending essential nutrients throughout the body. It is important we get some fat in our diet but it is equally important we learn how to regulate the type and the amount we do consume.

Chewing the Fat Facts

Dietary guidelines suggest no more than 30 percent of total calories. Twenty-five percent is even better. Your intake should lean more toward the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated with a maximum amount of fat from saturated fat at 10 percent or less of the 25 percent.

Polyunsaturated Fats:  This type of fat remains liquid at room temperature. Sunflower, safflower and corn are examples and tend to lower cholesterol levels in some studies.

Monounsaturated Fats:  These are still liquid at room temperature but thicken when refrigerated. Examples are found in avocados, olive oil, rapeseed, and many nuts. Recent studies are showing that they may tend to lower cholesterol levels, especially olive oil and canola oil.

Saturated Fats:  These are either solid or semi-solid at room temperature. Examples are butter, hard margarine, lard and shortening. Exceptions to the rule are coconut and palm oils, which have very high saturated fat levels. Palm oil tends to raise the cholesterol levels in the body; however, coconut oil can be healthful, helping to support healthy cholesterol levels.

Quick Fat Facts

  • To make a creamy salad dressing, try pouring olive oil very slowly into a running blender containing the other ingredients.
  • An empty detergent or ketchup bottle will make it easier to add cooking oil to pans.
  • Olive oil needs no refrigeration and will keep longer than any other type of oil.
  • To remove the fat from drippings, just pour them into a tall narrow glass, leave it for ten minutes, and then remove the layer of fat.
  • The best quality oil is Extra Virgin Oil. It is made from the finest plump olives, has the best flavor and is the least processed. Next is Virgin Oil, then Pure Olive Oil, which is a blend of both Extra Virgin and Virgin Oils.
  • Extra virgin olive oil contains less than 1 percent acidity; virgin olive oil contains 1-1/2 to 3 percent acidity. The less acidity, the better the quality of the oil. Many oils must have neutralizing agents added to them to reduce their level of acidity.
  • Oil and vinegar will mix well together in solution if you add the contents of 1 or 2 lecithin capsules.
  • To eliminate the fat from soups, refrigerate the soup until the fat hardens on the top, then just remove.
  • If your recipe requires that you cream shortening with a sugary substance, try adding a few drops of water to the mixture to make it easier.
  • To prevent a cooking wine from going sour, try adding a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the bottle.
  • When you are broiling meats, place a few pieces of dried bread in the broiler pan to soak up the dripping fat. This will eliminate the smoking fat and also reduces the risk of the fat catching fire.
  • When creaming butter, cut the butter into small pieces to give the mixer a better chance to do the job right.
  • To test whether hot oil is still usable, drop a piece of white bread into the pan. If the bread develops dark specs, the oil is deteriorating.
  • You can wrap ice cubes in a piece of cheesecloth or paper towel and skim it over the top of broiled meats to remove fat.
  • Another good way to remove fat is to use lettuce leaves. Place a few leaves in the pot and the fat will cling to them, and then just remove them. This is a very efficient method.
  • Never allow oil to heat to the smoke point, as it may ignite. It will also make food taste bitter and may irritate our eyes. The oils with the highest smoke points are Canola, safflower and corn oil.
  • The best butter is U.S. Grade AA, which is made from fresh sweet cream. U.S. Grade A is close to AA but has a lower flavor rating. U.S. Grade B is usually made from sour cream. The milk fat content of butter must be at least 80 percent.
  • Olive oil is one of the best fats to use in salads or for low temperature cooking. For example, in a Wok; it has a low smoke point and when used for higher temperature cooking, add a teaspoon of canola oil to it to raise the smoke point. This trick is also good to use with butter when you are using it for cooking. Some studies have shown olive oil to lower cholesterol levels.
  • Most margarine contains over 90 percent fat. Diet margarines usually contain 80 percent fat, 16 percent water, 2 percent salt and 2 percent non-fat milk solids. Do not forget the colorings and additives. Margarines are naturally white. A liquid diet margarine, however, may contain as low as 40 percent fat.
  • Margarine has been found to contain a substance called trans-acids. If you use margarine, use the softest diet you can buy (more air and water) or my recommendation is whipped unsalted butter. Used in moderation the cholesterol content is not that high in five to seven pats per week.
  • Do not save cooking oils or bacon drippings. The more these fats are re-cooked the higher the percentage of trans-acids. There are two forms of fats: Cis and trans. When you first use oil, the majority of the fat is of the good (cis) variety, but as it is heated a percentage changes to a potentially harmful substance, called a trans-acid.
  • When grandmother fried foods she used to place a peeled potato into the oil to clean out the debris, swish it around, remove it and throw it away. The oil was then placed in the freezer for use at a later date. After one use the oil was almost solid trans-fatty acids and the worst product we could put into our bodies.
  • Lard comes from the abdomen of pigs. Used in chewing gum bases, shaving creams, soaps and cosmetics. Future testing may implicate it in shortened life-spans and a factor in osteoporosis.
  • Most pork and trout contain approximately 40 percent fat calories.
  • Some of the highest fat crackers are Ritz, Town House and Goldfish, which contain approximately six grams of fat per ounce.
  • Mayonnaise must contain at least 65 percent oil by weight. If it contains less, it is called salad dressing.
  • Most fat free mayonnaise contains more sodium than the regular mayonnaise.
  • A tablespoon of mayonnaise contains only about 5 to 10mg of cholesterol. Very little egg yolk is really used in the product.
  • Pancakes wrapped around sausages on a ss deliver 60 percent of calories from fat.
  • Leaf lard comes from the area of the kidneys in pigs. It is a higher quality than other types of lard.
  • Pates are bordered with pork fats from the flank of the pig.
  • The harder the margarine, the higher the percentage of saturated fat it contains. Saturated fat is still guilty of helping the body produce more cholesterol than you need.
  • Refined corn oil is a chemical extraction, a triglyceride with no relationship to the nutrients in an ear of corn. The vitamins that would normally assist with the assimilation of the corn oil such as vitamin E, are absent.
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids can cause premature wrinkling of the skin and can possibly be a factor in premature aging as well.
  • If the list of ingredients in a food lists oil as hydrogenated, the product is probably high in saturated fats. Hydrogenation is the process of adding water to the fat, the oil picks up the hydrogen atoms and it makes the fat more saturated and harder.
  • Always purchase oils in dark-colored or tin containers to avoid any rancidity problem.
  • Diets high in total fat have been related to cancer of the colon, the prostate and the breast. High fat diets may reduce the efficiency of the immune system.
  • Young chickens and turkeys have less fat.
  • Every ounce of fat contains 250 percent more calories than an ounce of carbohydrate or protein.
  • Use buttermilk for baking, pancakes and especially mashed potatoes. Buttermilk is low in fat.
  • Fats should be included in all dietary plans, even those for weight control. Your body requires the essential fatty acids.
  • A person can survive very nicely on only 5 percent fat in their diet, the right fats, of course.
  • Approximately ten grams of fat is cleared from the stomach per hour. Two scrambled eggs, bread and butter, coffee and milk equals 50 grams of fat. Assimilation time is five to six hours.
  • A high fat intake can cause calcium and vitamin C losses through the urine.
  • Butter will go further and have fewer calories per serving if you beat it well. This increases the volume by adding air.
  • Seventy five percent of the calories in bacon come from fat, the same amount that comes from Cheddar cheese.
  • Americans spend 3 billion a year on bacon.
  • Most non-dairy creamers are made from coconut oil, which is very high in saturated fats. Mocha Mix is your best bet.
  • Rapeseed oil (Canola) for years has been grown as a forage crop for animals in the United States. Originally it was banned in the U.S. when imports from Canada showed high levels of erucic acid. However, new varieties have shown to contain lower acid levels and is now being produced and sold in large quantities. It is higher in monounsaturated fat and has a high smoke point, making it the preferred oil for frying.
  • Current studies show that if your body is higher in brown fat rather than white fat, your fat is of the more active type and will be able to control your weight better. These studies are now being conducted at Harvard Medical School.
  • Fats from beef should be from very lean cuts with all visible fat removed. Lean veal and lamb are permissible. Poultry should have all fat and skin removed, no duck or goose. Fish should be baked or broiled.
  • Most fats should be consumed either at breakfast or lunch. Few, if any, for dinner. High fat meals during the evening hours may cause the digestive system to overwork while you are sleeping, causing restless sleep patterns.
  • Most butters and margarines contain about the same amount of saturated fats.
  • Doughnuts and cakes add a high amount of saturated fat to your diet. It is best to make them yourself and put lower fat ingredients in them.
  • To reduce fat when preparing omelets, discard every other yolk this will reduce the fat and cholesterol levels and you will never know the difference.
  • Cottonseed oil is 25 percent saturated fat and not the best to use.
  • More soy oil is sold in the U.S. than any other kind of oil.
  • Soy oil changes in flavor, the longer it is stored, due to the changes in the linolenic acid it contains.
  • Sixty-four percent of the calories in caviar are from fat.
  • Butter will absorb refrigerator odors and should be stored covered.
  • Butter stores in the refrigerator for only two weeks. If longer time is needed, freeze it.
  • One pound of butter equals 2 cups.
  • If a recipe calls for butter, you may be able to replace it with a solid shortening, measure for measure. The water in the butter will balance off the air in the shortening.
  • Eight ounces of potato chips is the equivalent of eating 12 to 20 teaspoons of fat.
  • Try using water instead of fat in recipes. Fat does make dressings, etc. feel smooth to the taste, but if you thicken water with flour, cornstarch or potato starch it will save you calories.
  • Oils should be stored in opaque containers and placed in a dark, cool location to reduce the risk of rancidity.
  • When carob is made into candy, fat is added for texture which brings the fat content closer to real chocolate. In fact, cocoa butter use in real chocolate is 60 percent saturated fat while the fat in carob candy is 85 percent saturated in most cases.
  • Using non-ss cookware and spraying with a vegetable spray will help lower fat intake.
  • Never eat a salad dressing or mayonnaise based salad unless you are sure it has been refrigerated until just before you are ready to eat it. This causes thousands of cases of food poisoning yearly.
  • An 8 ounces bag of potato chips contains approximately six tablespoons of fat.
  • The oils associated with fish are more beneficial than those associated with meats. Fish contains a high percentage of omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Any margarine containing coconut or palm oil will be very high in saturated fat. New labeling now calls them tropical oils.
  • New fat substitutes continue to appear in our foods. Be aware that these are still synthetically produced and not a natural food. They should not be viewed as a panacea to replace the fats in our diet.
  • The best butter is made from U.S. Grade AA sweet cream.
  • One ounce of sunflower seeds contains 160 calories and is not a diet snack food.
  • A burrito topped with sour cream and guacamole may be as high as 1,000 calories and 59 percent fat.
  • Studies have shown that stearic acid, one of the saturated fats, has little effect on raising cholesterol levels.
  • Reduced fat Oreo cookies contain 47 calories and 1.67 grams of fat. The original cookie has 53 calories and 2.33 grams of fat. Not a big savings.
  • The new reduced fat peanut butter has the same number of calories per serving as regular peanut butter, approximately 190 per serving, sweeteners were added in place of the fat.
  • When oils are refrigerated and become cloudy, it is due to the buildup of harmless crystals. Manufacturers will sometimes pre-chill the oils and remove the crystals in a process known as “winterizing”. These oils will remain clear when refrigerated.
  • Lard has large crystals and butter small ones. This has a lot to do with the texture of the fat and is controlled during the processing. Crystal sizes can be altered by agitating the oil when it is cooling.
  • Studies have shown that dieters miss fat more than sweets.
  • Persons who consume a high fat diet are more prone to colon cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer. Studies in the future may show that there is also a detrimental effect on the immune system.

Functions of Fat

Some of the most noteworthy functions of fat include maintaining healthy skin, regulating cholesterol metabolism and carrying the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K , aiding in their absorption from the intestines. Fats also help the body use carbohydrates and proteins in a more efficient manner. Another bonus we have in fats is that they help us feel more satisfied following meals.

In spite of all the important functions of fat, it is still true most Americans consume too much. In doing so, the risks to cardio support, obesity, diabetes and other health problems increases dramatically. Health authorities recommend we limit our intake of fat to 30 percent of our total daily caloric intake. Only ten percent of this amount should be saturated fat. This can get confusing for many so here is a basic guide you can follow:

  • 1,600 calories: 53 grams or less of total fat and 18 or less saturated
  • 2,000 calories: 65 grams or less of total fat and 20 or less saturated
  • 2,200 calories: 73 grams or less of total fat and 24 or less saturated

It is a good idea to learn how to read the nutrition labels on the foods you buy and pay attention to the amount of fats — both total and saturated. You should focus primarily on your total fat intake over time. A food considered high in fat can be a part of a healthy diet as long as you balance it with other lower fat foods. All forms of fats contain nine calories per gram of fat.

High Fat Food Cravings

When you are craving a high-fat food, this means your body could be desperate for calories. Nine times out of ten, when you crave extremely calorie-rich foods, it’s because you haven’t been getting enough fuel for a while (days, weeks or months). The key to battling this craving isn’t necessarily to eat more fatty food, but to eat more, period.

Alternatives to Fat

There truly are some good alternatives to the traditional fat that is called for in most recipes. Once you find a suitable substitute, be sure to mark your recipe card so you will remember what worked well the next time you prepare that particular dish.

  • Try replacing part of the oil and fat called for in recipes with applesauce.
  • Plain low-fat yogurt.and reduced-fat sour cream are great stand-ins for sour cream.
  • Consider substituting buttermilk or 2-percent milk for whole milk or cream.
  • When sauteing meat and vegetables, use chicken or vegetable broth, apple juice, flavored vinegar’s, water or wine in place of cooking oil.
  • In some recipes, you can just add less fat than the recipe calls for. Start by cutting the butter, margarine, or oil in half then reduce it a little more the next time you make the recipe.

What is Total Fat?

A nutrition label will tell you how many grams (g) of total fat are in a food. It also tells you how many calories come from fat. Total fat includes both unsaturated fat and saturated fat.

Use Mostly Unsaturated Fat
Unsaturated fat comes from vegetable sources. Unsaturated fats include olive oil, canola, corn, peanut, safflower, and sunflower oils and liquid (squeezable) margarine. At least two-thirds of your total fat should be unsaturated fat. This is 20 percent or less of your total calories for the day, so use sparingly.

Limit Saturated Fat
Most saturated fat comes from animals. Foods such as butter, lard, cheese, cream, whole milk and fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb are high in saturated fat. Fats that are “partially hydrogenated,” or hard at room temperature, and some oils, such as palm and coconut oil, are also saturated fats. Eating saturated fat raises your cholesterol. No more than 7-percent to 10-percent of your total calories, or one-third of your total calories, or one-third of the total fat you eat, should be saturated fat.

Are You Eating Too Much Fat?
How do you know if you are eating too much fat? First, set your total calories for the day. Next, set your daily limits for total fat and saturated fat. Your health care provider can do these steps with you. Then read food labels to help you add up the grams of total fat and saturated fat you eat. If you go over your limits, you are eating too much fat.


  • Total calories a day: 2000
  • Total fat: 67 grams or less (600 calories or less)
  • Total saturated fat: 15 to 22 grams (135 to 200 calories)
  • Total calories a day: 2500
  • Total fat: 83 grams or less (750 calories or less)
  • Total saturated fat: 19 to 28 grams (170 to 250 calories)

Fats That Make You Skinny

There are two special fats that have been shown to really help people get skinny – coconut oil and conjugated linoleic acid.

Coconut oil is a saturated fat that actually provides great health benefits for the cardiovascular system and the fat burning machinery of the body. Most of the negative press associated with consuming saturated fats was based on information discovered in the 1950’s and is largely misunderstood.

Tropical cultures that consume high amounts of saturated fat as coconut oil have very low instances of heart disease and artery disease. On the other hand, in the United States we consume very high amounts of hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated fats like those in soybean, corn and vegetable oils. Subsequently, Americans have the highest rates of heart and artery disease in the world.

The fat chains in coconut oil can not be stored by the body in any form. Therefore, when they are consumed the body has not choice but to burn them immediately for energy. This triggers the cellular machinery to start the fat burning process. Triggering this fat burning process helps to jump start the burning of other fat in the body. It is an indirect way of starting the metabolic process.

Another way in which coconut oil stimulates fat loss is by supporting the activity of the thyroid gland. Our thyroid gland determines the metabolic rate of our body and therefore determines how much energy we burn each day. An optimally functioning thyroid gland will promote ideal metabolism and stimulate the burning of fat. Green Tea also increases metabolism.

In addition to these benefits for weight management, coconut oil contains a compound called Lauric acid. This substance, also found in breast milk, has strong activity against both bacteria and viruses. It has been shown to be helpful for people suffering from chronic viral infections like herpes, mono and even HIV.

Coconut oil is very stable under heat which makes it ideal for high temperature cooking and baking.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

CLA is a type of fatty acid found in certain dairy and meat products and consumed widely as a popular supplement. Numerous animal and human trials have demonstrated the ability of CLA to reduce body fat in healthy, overweight individuals. The most notable study was published in the Journal of Nutrition. The study found that CLA, when supplemented at a dose of 3400mg/day, reduced fat and preserved muscle tissue in healthy overweight adults. CLA seems to reduce body fat in humans and animals in several different ways:

  1. CLA works by decreasing the amount of fat that is stored after eating a meal
  2. By increasing the rate of fat breakdown in fat cells
  3. By increasing the rate of fat metabolism

The fat loss benefits of CLA are impressive, but an effective weight loss plan will also have to include proper food choices and exercise.

Fats in our diet can help contribute to fat burning weight loss in other ways. Lean meats that contain good quality fat, like salmon, can help people lose weight by supplying the body with a perfect combination of slow burning protein and high quality fat.

In most people the types of food that most significantly stimulate fat storage are carbohydrates. Carbohydrates, both simple and complex, can trigger sharp rises in blood sugar right after they are consumed. This sharp rise in blood sugar is followed by a sharp rise in insulin. Insulin is a hormone that signals our body’s to store excess energy, primarily as fat. Eating carbohydrate based foods, mainly grain products, baked goods and sugars results in the release of insulin and triggers the storage of fat.

High quality lean meats and oils produce very small rises in blood sugar. These smaller blood sugar spikes do not trigger as dramatic insulin responses and therefore reduces the fat.

Low Fat Claim Traps

Low fat was all the rage for years – and yes, cutting fat is still important, that hasn’t changed, but knowledge regarding the types of fat we ingest has. And, lo and behold, it’s science itself that steered us down the wrong path!

Remember When…

Remember when nuts and avocados were on the “no-no” list? And red wine was “bad” and chocolate taboo? Well, now nuts and avocados are recognized as sources of healthy fats. Red wine is considered good for your heart in moderate amounts. Chocolate finds itself now on the right side of nutrition science.

But when science really let us down was with the margarine hype. We were told to stop eating butter because of saturated fat and start eating margarine – but that margarine has trans fat which, we now know, is far worse that saturated fat. Something never did sit right about margarine: Butter is natural, margarine was man-made. That instinct was right so our suggestion to you now is, when in doubt, stick to the most natural food products; ignore the hype from nutrition science. It’s not always accurate.

There are other risks for heart disease you can lower, too. If you smoke, you can stop. If you are under a lot of stress, you can learn to relax. And you can do simple things to be more active. Being physically active helps lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and control your weight. Plus, it helps you feel better.

Avoid the Nutrition Science Trap

Following the ups and downs of nutrition science is enough to give you whiplash. Here are a few tips to help you ride the wave of nutrition science and make the most of your diet and health.

  1. Don’t change your diet in any significant way based on a single study.
  2. When considering a study, find out where the information came from. Did anyone, such as a food or supplement company, benefit from the study results?
  3. Look for a reputable source for nutrition information. See what a leading health organization NOT FUNDED WITH TAX MONIES has to say about the subject.
  4. Look at the numbers closely – are amount of participants in studies very small?
  5. Be wary of some diet books or websites that may encourage you to make drastic dietary changes without scientific basis.
  6. Remember that food makers sell products to generate income. Some advertising and marketing claims may not be entirely grounded in science.

It’s estimated that nearly half of American adults attempt to lose weight each year (1).

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