Health Plus


Fat-- a word that has taken on a lot of negative meanings over the years.  The consumption of fat is necessary to our bodies, but it is important to remember that not all fats are created equal.

Do I need fat?

Yes.  Fats are necessary for cell growth, organ protection, hormone production, helping absorb certain vitamins, and providing essential fatty acids that the body can't make on its own.  Fats (no matter the type) contain 9 calories per gram, compared to carbohydrates and proteins, which contain 4 calories per gram.  This means that fats have a lot of calories in a small amount.  Even though some fats are healthy, it's important not to justify over consumption.

How much fat do I need?

According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, there is not a current limit on overall fat intake.  There is a recommendation, however, to limit saturated fat to less than 10% of your daily calories due to its link with heart disease.  This means that someone following a 2,000 calorie diet should aim to consume less than 23 grams of saturated fat per day.  The main sources of saturated fats in the American diet come from mixed dishes containing cheese and/or meat such as burgers, sandwiches, tacos, and pizza.  Trans fats should be avoided altogether.

Should I eat low-fat products?

It is important to note that replacing total fats or saturated fats with carbohydrates (specifically refined carbohydrates that include added sugar) is not associated with a decreased risk in heart disease.  In fact, replacing fats with carbohydrates can lower good cholesterol and increase triglycerides.  Many packaged foods labeled "low-fat" may have added sugar in replacement of the fat.  To avoid this problem, focus on consuming foods that are naturally lower in saturated fat rather than consuming packaged or processed foods.

Which types of fats should I increase?

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two types of unsaturated fat that are not made in the body, so they must be received from food.  Americans tend to consume enough omega-6 fatty acids.  However, omega-3 fatty acids play a key role in heart health and are largely under consumed by Americans.  The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, rainbow trout, and mackerel.  Aim to consume fatty fish at least twice a week.  Plant sources include ground flax seed and flax oils, seaweed, walnuts, and chia seeds. 

What is the key takeaway?

When possible, foods high in saturated fats should be replaced with foods high in unsaturated fats (e.g. using oil instead of butter). Other strategies to meet fat recommendations are to select lean sources of meat or substitute meat with plant proteins, choose low-fat dairy products and eat fatty fish twice a week.


Swap out the butter or margarine in a recipe for an equal amount of oil such as olive or canola oil.  If you already cook with oil, create a plan to eat two servings of fatty fish this week.

Pesto Salmon and Italian Veggie Pockets

Total Time: 30 minutes / Makes: 4 servings


1 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 (6 oz) skinless salmon fillets
4 tablespoons pesto
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut four pieces of aluminum foil into 14-inch lengths.
  2. Toss asparagus with 2 teaspoons olive oil and season with pepper to taste.  Divide asparagus into 4 servings and layer in center of each piece of foil. 
  3. Season both sides of salmon with a little bit of salt and pepper.  Layer salmon over asparagus.  Spread 1 tablespoon of pesto over top of each piece of salmon.  Drizzle 1 teaspoon lemon juice over each fillet.
  4. Toss tomatoes with remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil.  Spread over each salmon fillet.  Wrap sides of foil in and roll and crimp edge to seal.  Don't wrap the aluminum too tightly around the salmon and veggies to allow air to circulate.
  5. Place side by side on a baking sheet and bake in oven until salmon has cooked through, about 20-28 minutes.  Enjoy!

Nutrition Information per Serving (Serving Size: 1 pocket)
Calories: 508, Total Fat: 37 grams, Saturated Fat: 6 grams, Sodium: 249 milligrams, Carbohydrates: 8 grams, Fiber: 3 grams, Sugar: 4 grams, Protein: 36 grams

Recipe from: Cooking Classy