Got diabetes? Understand more about fat in your diet 

Got diabetes? Understand more about fat in your diet

Got diabetes? Understand more about fat in your diet
Got diabetes? Understand more about fat in your diet
Got diabetes? Understand more about fat in your diet

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Confused and troubled by fats in your diet? While fat is an essential nutrient, some types of fats are healthier choices and others are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Get to know the many fats and oils in our diet and make the right choices!

From our hearts to our brains and even our skin, fats offer multiple benefits. Nevertheless, fats should be consumed in moderation, especially if you have diabetes, as individuals with diabetes have a higher risk of developing heart diseases.

Here’s a simple primer on fats to help you make better choices.

1. Enjoy the good fats

Unsaturated fats are a healthy type of fat. The American Heart Association(AHA) recommends that the majority of the fats that you eat should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Thus, aim to replace less healthy fats like saturated fats and trans fats with unsaturated fats like monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs).

MUFAs are good fats that can help reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in your blood which in turn helps lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. For people with diabetes, research has also shown MUFA to benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control. Rich sources of MUFA include olive oil, nuts (e.g., almonds, cashews, pecans, and macadamias), canola oil, and avocados. The two main types of PUFAs are omega-6 polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats. Research has shown that consumption of omega-3 fats can help improve blood cholesterol levels, which may reduce the risk for heart disease. Such fats are beneficial for those with diabetes who are at risk for heart problems. Rich sources of omega-3 fats include fatty fish (salmon, sardines, and mackerel), seeds (e.g., flaxseeds, chia seeds), nuts (e.g., walnuts, pine nuts), avocados, and dark green leafy vegetables (e.g., kale, spinach).

Despite these benefits, one should still only consume such ‘good’ fats in moderation as all fats, including MUFAs and PUFAs, are concentrated sources of calories. In general, it is recommended that fat should make up about 25-30% of our total energy intake1. Based on a typical 2000 kcal diet, the total fat allowance is about 55 to 65 g a day. 

2. Limit the 'bad' fats

Saturated fats and trans fats are considered 'bad' fats. Saturated fats elevate cholesterol levels, particularly LDL cholesterol and thereby increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Replacing foods that are high in saturated fat with healthier options can help lower blood cholesterol levels and improve blood lipid profile. Saturated fats occur naturally in many foods, especially meat and dairy products. Sources include fatty beef, poultry skin, butter, dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk, as well as fried foods. Palm and coconut oils are also common sources of saturated fat.

Trans fats raise ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol levels and ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol levels and increase your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. There are two broad types of trans fats found in foods: naturally occurring and artificial trans fats. Natural occurring trans fats are found in small amounts in some meat and dairy. Artificial trans fats are found in processed foods such as butter, shortening and commercial deep-fried food and pastries. Avoid animal trans fats by reading food labels and looking for partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or shortening in the ingredients list.

To eat a healthier diet, use less oil in your food and opt for steaming or baking instead. Replace “pancit” with the soup version for your next meal in food courts. Say no to “turon” and switch to soybean pudding (less sugar!). If you want to step up the challenge, occasionally swap meat with beans for your protein.

Making better choices daily makes a difference

Our bodies have lots of dietary requirements to meet, and sometimes, it's hard to fulfill all of them, especially if we have dietary restrictions due to conditions such as diabetes. Always start small! If you are looking for a quick fix for individuals with diabetes, consider using a diabetes-specific formula. Such formulas are specially formulated to contain beneficial fats like MUFA and omega-3 and 6 fats, while being low in Glycemic Index. Being able to provide complete and balanced nutrition, it's possibly the most convenient solution for a meal replacement or supplement without compromising on flavor or your health! Nonetheless, always consult your doctor or dietitian to carefully incorporate this into your diet.

So, remember, simple daily choices can make a big difference. Take a step in the right direction today!

1 Singapore Health Promotion Board

Qian F et al. Diabetes Care 2016;39:1448–1457

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