Diabetes and Fat
If you have diabetes, chances are that you pay close attention to the carbohydrates you eat every day. After all, it’s carbohydrates that quickly raise blood glucose levels. But because diabetes increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease, keeping an eye on fat is also essential.
Fat is not a four-letter word! Yes, a high-fat diet—especially one that includes mainly saturated fats (see “Daily Limits” for details)—is unhealthy and causes all sorts of health havoc, from heart disease and obesity to some types of cancer. However, we actually need some fat in our diet to stay healthy. For instance, fat transports vitamins A, D, E, and K into the bloodstream. And our bodies can’t make two essential fatty acids, linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid, which we need for our brain, our nervous system, and for healthy skin—we need to get these from food sources.
The best sources for monounsaturated fat, one type of fat we do need, include:
- avocadocanola oil
- nuts such as almonds, cashews, pecans and peanuts
- olives and olive oils
- sesame seed
Polyunsaturated fats are also considered “healthy” fats. Polyunsatured fats are found in:
- certain fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring
- soybean, corn, and safflower oils
- some types of nuts, including walnuts and sunflower seeds
Finally, we need omega-3 fatty acids to help keep arteries healthy. Good sources for omega-3s include:
- certain fish like albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, rainbow trout, sardines, and salmon,
- flax seeds
- canola oils
There are two types of fat that are especially unhealthy: saturated fat and trans fat.
Saturated fat is found in dairy products such as butter, full-fat cheese, cream, ice cream, whole milk, 2% milk, and sour cream. It’s also in meat, including ground beef, bologna, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, spareribs, and poultry skin. Certain oils, including palm and palm kernel oil and coconut oil are also saturated fats.
The other type of fat you want to watch out for is trans fat. This type of fat is even worse for you than saturated fat. In fact, it’s a good idea to avoid it altogether. A trans fat is a liquid fat that turns solid in a process called hydrogenation. Trans fats are found in baked goods such as cookies and muffins, and in crackers and chips. Shortening and stick margarine are also trans fats.
No more than 30 percent of your daily calories should come from fat, according to the American Dietetic Association. Of that total, at least 20 percent should come from “healthy” fats and people with diabetes should limit their intake of saturated fat to seven percent (the equivalent of 15 grams per day) of their daily total.