Learn more about the fats on your dinner plate

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Not all fats are created equally. Low-fat, reduced-fat, fat-free foods could be the reason you can’t lose weight, and here is why:

Food manufacturers create low-fat, reduced-fat and fat-free products by removing fat and compensating with salt, sugars and refined carbohydrates. Think about it — what role does fat play in the flavor profile? Fat is a source of flavor. When fat is removed, flavor must be compensated with something.

Studies show that the reduced-fat campaign a few years ago contributed to an increase in obesity and diabetes. The refined carbohydrates and sugars that compensate for the fat reduction in foods trigger the body to release insulin. Insulin helps the body break down sugars and promotes fat storage. With that, let’s talk about fats.

The primary fats are saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and stable over time. Saturated fats have been linked to heart disease because they increase low-density lipoproteins — a.k.a. LDL- the “bad” cholesterol. Sources of saturated fat are palm oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter and animal fats. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends saturated fats compose less than 10 percent of daily caloric intake, and saturated fats should be replaced with unsaturated fats.

Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and unstable, meaning that unsaturated fats can become rancid over time. Unsaturated fats decrease LDL, “bad” cholesterol, and increase HDL. HDL is the “good” cholesterol. Unsaturated fats are beneficial to cholesterol levels. When consumed, unsaturated fats help consumers feel full and satisfied sooner and for longer periods of time. As a result, studies have shown that diets high in unsaturated fat contribute to weight loss. Sources of unsaturated fats are fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and liquid oils such as vegetable oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, olive oil, canola oil and avocado oil.

Beware that not all plant-based oils are sources of healthy fats. Palm and coconut oils are high in saturated fat and have a different chemical structure than other plant-based oils. Recently, liquid coconut oil has been added to grocery store shelves. Liquid coconut oil continues to be high in saturated fat. Read the nutrition label to make sure that you are making a healthy choice.

Next time, I will talk more about the importance of healthy fats. The traditional Mediterranean eating pattern is based of eating lots of healthy, unsaturated fats with numerous scientifically-proven health benefits.

For more information, contact Cassidy Hobbs at the N.C. Cooperative Extension Office, Wilson County Center at 252-237-0111 or by emailing cdhobbs3@ncsu.edu. In the meantime, check out this great recipe for a delicious introduction to healthy fats, and pair with a fresh salad or green beans!

Honey Citrus Chicken Drumsticks

Zest from 1 orange

Juice from 1 orange (approximately 13 cup)

Zest from 1 lemon

14 cup honey

Pinch salt

Pinch pepper

14 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

6 skinless chicken drumsticks with bone–in

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine all ingredients (except chicken) to make marinade. Separate into two bowls.

Marinate the chicken in one of the bowls of marinade for 15 to 20 minutes.

Spread marinated chicken onto foil-lined baking pan and dispose of bowl of marinade used to marinate chicken.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 375 degrees.

Once cooked, brush chicken with remaining marinade. Serves 6.

Nutrition Information: serving Size, 1 drumstick; vegetables, 0 cups; fruits, 0 cups; calories, 210 calories; carbohydrates, 13 grams; fiber, 0 grams; protein, 13 grams; fat, 12 grams;sodium, 91 mg.