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The Truth about Fats

Contributed by Julie Whitten on 03/21/07 

Here’s a little known fact: Ithaca College Dining Services has been making the conversion to zero trans fat products since 2005.

Currently, Ithaca College Dining Services is using zero trans fat oils in all fryers.

For years, fats have been thought to be the culprit of bad health. Increasingly, however, research is showing that not all fats are equal. Some oils and fatty foods contain chemicals called essential fatty acids, which our bodies need for good health. How do you know the difference between good fats and bad fats?
Knowing which fats raise LDL cholesterol and which ones don't is the first step in lowering your risk of heart disease. Learning the truth about fats can be overwhelming, below are some common questions asked about fats:

Q. Lately, all the hype has been about trans fats; do I need to be concerned?

A. Trans fats are unsaturated fatty acids created during the hydrogenation process in vegetable oils, and occur naturally, in small quantities, in animal fats. You can sometimes find trans fat in fried foods, baked goods such as cakes, cookies, crackers, and doughnuts, processed foods, and margarine. Trans fats have been shown to increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and decrease HDL (good) cholesterol. The current recommendation is to keep trans fat intake as low as possible.

It is important to understand scientific evidence suggests that consumers should focus first on total fat and saturated fat because the intake of saturated fat is significantly higher than intake levels of trans fat; saturated fats present a greater risk for most Americans.

Q. So, wait, what are saturated fats, and what is the maximum I should be eating?

A. Saturated fats should provide less than 10% of total calories in your diet. Saturated fats are found in things like whole milk, butter, cheese, ice cream, red meat, poultry skin, egg yolks, chocolate, and coconut.

Q. What about healthy fats?

A. Healthy fats are an important part of your diet and should make up 20-35% of total caloric intake. "We've had such emphasis on eating low-fat foods," says Patricia Kendall, PhD, RD, a professor at the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Office. "But all these new studies on oils and high-fat foods like nuts and cold-water fish show we've been ignoring how much we need certain fats."
The two essential fatty acids most important to good health are omega-3 and omega-6. But we need these in the right balance in order to protect our hearts, joints, pancreas, mood stability, and skin.
Unfortunately, we eat way too much omega-6, which is found in the corn oil and vegetable oils used in so much American food. Too much omega 6 can raise your blood pressure, lead to blood clots that can cause heart attack and stroke, and cause your body to retain water.
We don't eat nearly enough omega-3, which can reduce our risk for heart disease and cancer. Omega-3 is found in fish and fish oil, all green leafy vegetables, flax seed, hemp, and walnuts.

Q. If Ithaca College Dining Services is not allowed to use trans fats cooking oils, what types of oils are used in resident and retail dining?

A. Some oils used in the dining halls are olive oil, canola oil, and zero trans fat fryer shortening. Olive oil and canola oil are considered healthy monounsaturated fats that have been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol.

Q. Can I get nutritional information for any of the items found in resident and retail dining?

A. In addition to providing nutritional information on the hot lines, Ithaca College Dining Services provides nutrition information to students on their website. Click on the nutrition tab and then the nutrition calculator. For more information, contact Ithaca College Dining Services at (607)274-1187.

Ithaca College Dining Services offers a variety of services including residential and retail dining. For more information regarding Ithaca College Dining Services explore our website at

Sources: Patricia Kendall, PhD, RD, professor, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Office * Ruth Kava, PhD, RD, American Council of Science and Health * Artemis Simopoulos, MD, editor in chief, World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics * The PDR Family Guide to Nutrition & Health.

The Truth about Fats | 1 Comments |
The following comments are the opinions of the individuals who posted them. They do not necessarily represent the position of Intercom or Ithaca College, and the editors reserve the right to monitor and delete comments that violate College policies.
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The Truth about Fats Comment from amulcah1 on 03/22/07
On the dining services website, once I click Nutrition Calculator and select foods to "add to the list", and click the add to list button, nothing happens. It says that I am missing a required plugin. But then when i hit the button to install the plug-in, the plug-in isn't found.

What's going wrong? How can I fix this?