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Friday, March 2, 2012

Increase Healthy Fat Consumption with Hemp Seeds

Shelled hemp seeds
Photo by Evelyn Parham on Flickr
There is a lot of information out there when it comes to dietary fat -- good fat, bad fat, limit here, increase there -- it can be enough to make your head spin. To put it simply, eat the smallest amount of saturated fat and eat more healthy fats instead -- like hemp seeds.

Hemp seeds have a very light flavor, almost unnoticeable and are great to add into salads, giving it a little more heft. They can also be added into baked goods, shakes or yogurt.

Here are some things that I really like about hemp seeds:

  • They have a 3:1 omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids ratio (most other nuts/seeds have a higher omega 6 content which most Americans already get plenty of through animal fat)
  • They are a complete protein containing all essential amino acids
  • They are high in fiber
  • They are a good source of trace minerals and phytosterols (known to help lower cholesterol)

According to the American Heart Association, healthy fats from nuts, seeds, fish and plant oils may help lower cholesterol when used in place of saturated fats.

Though we often hear about how bad saturated fat is, remembering why it's so bad and how prevalent it is, can be forgotten sometimes -- so let's review.

Saturated Fat

Over consumption of saturated fats are most damaging to your health resulting in heart disease, atherosclerosis and increased risk of heart attack. Most people get too much saturated fat in their diets from animal products such as beef, pork, poultry fat, butter, cream, milk and cheese -- to name a few.

The AHA recommends limiting total fat for the day to 25-35% of total calories and saturated fat should be less than 7% of total calories.

So what does this look like? Take someone who consumes 1500 calories for the day:
  • Total fat for the day: 375-525 fat calories which is 42g-58g 
  • Total saturated fat for the day: 105 saturated fat calories which is 12g
Looking at those numbers it seems like a lot, right? But if you start to look at how much fat is in food, you'll be surprised. 

I recently saw a tweet from Eat This Not That calling out On the Border's Dos XX Fish Tacos for being high in fat. After reviewing their menu, one variation of that meal has 121g of total fat, 28g being saturated fat. That is horrifying.

This just goes to show how important it is to pay attention to what is in the food you're eating.

One serving of hemp seeds is usually about 3 tablespoons consisting of 13g total fat, 1.5 of that being saturated fat.

Next time you're dining out, think about what is really in your food. If you know where you're going to eat beforehand, take a look at their online menu and nutrition data and choose something that is friendly to your waistline and health.

A better option would be to make your own food and limit dining out to an absolute minimum. If you're looking for an easy way to reduce bad fat and incorporate good fat into your diet, try to swapping a typical lunch for a large salad and sprinkle some hemp seeds on that -- super easy. Remember, small changes add up. 

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