Sugars, Sodium and Fats – 3 Factors in Healthy Diets

From left to right: bottle of soy oil, canola ...

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You’ve all heard the advice, “cut down sugars and sodium and trim the fat”. You say: I know sugar when I see it”, but do you know you’re eating sugar when any of these ingredients appear on the food label?
corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, glucose, dextrose, honey, molasses, syrup, lactose, mannitol

Any of the following ingredients indicate the food product contains sodium:
salt, baking soda, baking powder, monosodium glutamate, sodium caseinate, sodium nitrate, sodium saccharin, bouillon, meat tenderizer, and any of the flavored salts such as onion, garlic, celery.

Fats in food have received a great deal of press. “What are the good fats and the bad fats” we want to know. What about saturated and unsaturated fat? Very confusing.

Fat in food is composed of two major types of fatty acids: saturated and unsaturated. Unsaturated fatty acids are further classified as either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated. Foods contain combinations of the three types of fat. However, most foods contain a majority of one type.

Here is a list of saturated fats, which are said to be the least heart healthy as they raise the blood cholesterol more than anything else in the diet:
lard, butter, cream, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, poultry fat, bacon fat and other meat fat.

Polyunsaturated oils are: safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil.

Monounsaturated fats include: canola oil, peanut oil, and olive oil.

I like to reduce or eliminate my intake of nearly all vegetable oils, including corn, safflower, sunflower, canola, sesame oil, soybean oil, and related products such as margarine and vegetable shortening.

The two best oils I believe are high-quality virgin coconut oil and extra-virgin olive oil. Although coconut oil is a saturated oil, I feel it’s good points of being derived from a healthful food, helping regulate blood sugar, causing the body to burn up more calories,  and its stability under high heat tend to outweigh its saturation concerns.

Avoid products that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil. This means that the oil has been heated to such a high temperature that the structure of the molecules have been changed to make it more stable at room temperature. This, however, makes it more harmful for the body.

Despite all the criticism of fat, it is an important nutrient and serves important functions in the body. It is a source of energy, helps protect important body organs and is necessary for growth and body maintenance.

Diets in our country are high in animal products, fat, salt and sugar and low in vegetables, fruits and fiber. Cutting down, or eliminating the big three: sugar, sodium and fats –  is a real challenge. It is worth the effort because our health depends on it.

To your good health and that of your family’s,

Lee Jackson
Health and Nutrition Advocate

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  1. So informative! Lots of info that everyone should know. I’m going to school to become a dietitian right now, and I think this post is pretty much a crash course in nutrition!! Love it 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your post! I really appreciate your comments and congratulate you on choosing the dietetic field! This field of study is all important in learning how food affects health. I hope you have a chance to take a look at the textbook I wrote entitled “Careers in Focus: Family and Consumer Sciences” published by Goodheart-Willcox. The first part offers guidelines for succeeding in the world of work and skills necessary for job success. The second part focuses on careers in many areas of family and consumer sciences, including careers in Nutrition, Food Science, and Dietetics. Take a look here: You have chosen well – I wish you much success!

  2. Thank you for your comment. Coconuts have been prized for their preventive and curative powers over disease and illness by islanders for many centuries. It is the fruit of the palm tree. Coconut oil is not stored in the body’s cells but goes immediately to the liver where it is converted into energy. I feel it is a very healthful oil, even for the face when used in moderation.


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