Fats and Diabetes

Eating fat gives you energy and works with other nutrients that you eat, including vitamins A, D, E and K, to nourish your body. But research has shown that eating foods high in fat can also clog and narrow arteries and lead to heart disease.

Fat is found in:

  • baked goods, such as doughnuts, cakes and muffins
  • butter
  • margarine
  • fried foods
  • oil
  • meats and poultry with the skin
  • cheese
  • whole milk

Most Americans eat too much fat, which increases the risk of being overweight and developing heart disease. Since having diabetes already puts you at high risk for heart attacks and strokes, you must limit how much fat you eat so that you can lower your risk of heart disease.

First, you need to understand what your limits are — that is, how much fat you should eat to have a healthy diet. Then you need to understand how to choose the correct types and amounts of food to stay within those limits.

  • Limit your total fat intake to no more than 25 to 35 percent of your total daily calories. Total fat is a combination of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. Keep reading to learn how to do this.

  • Limit your saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of your total daily calories.

Saturated Fats

Foods high in saturated fat may raise blood cholesterol more than any other type of food, according to heart experts at the National Institutes of Health. The typical American gets about two-thirds of his or her saturated fat from animal sources. Do you eat whole-milk products, fatty meats and poultry with skin? If so, you may be getting too much saturated fat. The same is true if you often eat sweets, such as candy bars and commercially prepared pastries. Treats such as these may contain coconut oil, cocoa butter, palm kernel oil or palm oil. Those butters and oils are vegetable fats that are highly saturated.

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Trans Fats

Trans fats are found in many baked goods, vegetable shortenings and fried foods. A small amount of trans fat is found naturally in animal products, but most trans fats are manufactured from vegetable oils. The manufactured trans fats often appear on food labels as "partially hydrogenated" oils. Trans fats can significantly affect your cholesterol level. There is no recommended amount of this type of fat. Aim to eat as little as possible.

Unsaturated Fats

Eating unsaturated fat does not increase the level of unhealthy cholesterol in your blood. There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

Monounsaturated fats include vegetable oils such as:

  • olive oil
  • canola oil
  • peanut oil

Polyunsaturated fats include vegetable oils such as:

  • safflower oil
  • sunflower oil
  • some oils from fish

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthier choices than saturated fat.

Reducing Total Fat From Your Diet

Use these tips to cut total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol:

  • Choose foods that are low in total fat.
  • Choose foods that are low in saturated fat.
  • Avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats).
  • Substitute unsaturated fats for saturated fats.
  • Limit foods that are rich in cholesterol.
  • Understand what the claims on food labels mean.
  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Limit the amount of animal protein you eat.
  • Use heart-healthy cooking methods.
  • Eat healthfully even when you dine out.
Suggested Servings of Fats Per Day
(based on daily calorie ranges)
If your maximum daily calories =1,200 to 1,6001,600 to 2,0002,000 to 2,400
Then recommended servings =   
 Fatup to 3up to 4up to 5



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