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Understanding Protein and Fat

April 25, 2024SuperPistachios

The Basics: Protein

Proteins are the building blocks of your body. They’re everywhere: muscles, bones, skin, enzymes, hormones, and much more. Dietary proteins are used to repairs tissues, regulate water and acid-base balance, support hormone production, and supply energy when food intake is restricted. Proteins are made of amino acids. There are 20. Nine of these are essential and the other 11 are non-essential. “Essential” means that they are required for health and growth but that your body can’t manufacture them. So you must eat them. But don’t worry: in most developed countries (US included), people generally eat enough protein to cover their basic needs. On the other hand, non-essential amino acids can be produced by the body from the essential ones. Each gram of protein provides 4 calories.

The major sources of protein are:

Meat, Fish, Poultry, Eggs, Dairy products, Nuts, Beans

Check your fridge, freezer, and shelves for protein sources. Find one of each type listed above.

The Basics: Fats

As we know, your body stores energy as fat. Fat has many functions. Among others, it supplies energy cushions organs allows vitamins A, D, E, and K to be absorbed by the gut.

The fat family has 3 members:
Unsaturated fat, Saturated fat, and Trans fat (commercially engineered transformation to keep foods crisp).
Unsaturated fat is liquid at room temperature, and is the healthiest of the three. It decreases “bad” cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. It can be divided in 2 subcategories: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (also called omega-3, 6, and 9).

Foods high in monounsaturated fat are:

Avocados, Nuts (cashews, pistachios, almonds, and peanuts), Safflower, canola, olive, and peanut oil

Foods high in polyunsaturated fat are:

Soybean, corn and cottonseed oil and fatty fish (salmon, white tuna, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines)

Fatty fish deserves a special mention. We’ve been conditioned to think that fat is unhealthy and increases our risk of heart disease. Some types do (more on this in a minute), but the polyunsaturated fats found in fish do the exact opposite: they reduce our risk of heart disease. Japan, where fish is a national dish (Sushi anyone?), has the world’s lowest rates of cardiovascular diseases.

Saturated fat is found mainly in animals and is solid at room temperature. Historically, it has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, but this was recently challenged and is still debated. To err on the safe side, we recommend you eat it in moderation.

The following foods are high in saturated fat:

Fatty meats, Poultry fat and skin, Animal fats, Medium or high fat cheese (8-25%), Palm oil (40-45%), Butter (45-50%), Coconut oil (80-85%)

Trans fat is made when food manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil (a process called “hydrogenation”) to make it solid, extend its shelf life, and give it a crispier texture. Of all fat types, trans is the worst and raises heart disease risk substantially*. Avoid it at all cost. It is found in:

Margarine, Shortening, Most commercial packaged cookies and crackers, Some commercial processed snacks and sweets, Some French fries and other fried fast food

The typical American diet contains 20% to 30% fat. Each gram provides 9 calories.


Add salmon to your grocery list and buy one next time you shop. Eat it grilled, smoked, or just plain pan broiled. Google “salmon recipe” for extra ideas. Next, include fatty fish to your meal schedule 3 times per week.


Eliminate trans fat completely from your diet. Its labeling is mandatory: check the nutrition facts of your favorite cookies for it. Also, replace margarine for olive oil (best choice). If you can’t stand the taste, plain old butter is still better.

*U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Revealing Trans Fats. Online: Browsed 2/17/2008.

Source by Carl Juneau