Having the right meal plan enables one to live healthily, that is why nutritionists advise on feeding on a balanced diet, one that is rich in low fats.
Dieudonne Bukaba, a private nutritionist in Kigali, states that a small amount of fat is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Fat is a source of essential fatty acids, which the body cannot make itself. Fat helps the body absorb vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E. These vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning they can only be absorbed with the help of fats, he says.
He says leafy greens contain virtually no fat and are loaded with beneficial minerals and vitamins, including calcium, potassium, folate and vitamins A and K. They are especially rich in certain plant compounds to reduce inflammation in your body.
Studies suggest that diets high in leafy greens may protect against certain conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
The nutrition expert also says fruits are sweet, low-fat foods loaded with antioxidants, which protect your cells against free radical damage.
Dr. Kenneth Ruzindana, a consultant at Kigali University Teaching Hospital (CHUK) says, in addition to helping one lose weight by using calories on more filling foods, following a low-fat diet can help in warding off serious medical conditions, including heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
He adds, fat carries a higher number of calories per gram than carbohydrates or proteins and so reducing fat can help to reduce your overall calorie intake. The term ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats are often used to distinguish between saturated and unsaturated fats.
“Good fats refer to unsaturated fats as found in avocados, nuts and oily fish. It is widely believed that these fats are largely beneficial for us,” Ruzindana states.
He explains that bad fats are saturated fats found in meat and dairy products. There is some debate as to whether the saturated fats found in meat and dairy should be labeled ‘bad’.
Bad fats also refer to hydrogenated fats which may be used to help increase the shelf life, consistency and taste of processed foods. Hydrogenated fats, in the form of trans fats, have been found to be harmful to the body.
Low-fat diets are another standard strategy to help patients lose weight, and almost all dietary guidelines recommend a reduction in the daily intake of fat to <30 percent of energy intake, he says.
Bukaba further notes, sweet potatoes are a low-fat root vegetable packed with vitamins A and C. However, it is also high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that may reduce your risk of certain eye conditions.
He also says mushrooms are a meal that shouldn’t miss on your diet, they are fungi that contain plenty of vitamins and minerals, and a unique, anti-inflammatory compound called ergothioneine. They may also have immune-enhancing and cancer-fighting effects.
Garlic is also a good source of low fats; it is commonly used in cooking and for medicinal purposes. Research suggests that the active compounds in garlic may help boost your immune system and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, Bukaba stresses.
Bukaba notes white, lean fish is a superb low-fat source of high-quality protein. They also contain high amounts of vitamin B12, phosphorus, selenium and niacin. Egg whites are a low-fat alternative to whole eggs since fat and cholesterol are concentrated in the yolks. These egg whites are almost fat-free and provide sufficient amounts of protein.
He also says low-fat diets may also prevent heartburn, cut weight and improve cholesterol. Fortunately, many studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables can reduce free radical damage due to their high antioxidant content.
Bukaba further states, when considering a low-fat diet, it is important to remember that not all fat types are unhealthy. The key is to eat a varied diet of nutritious, natural foods and avoid those high in saturated or trans fats.
He says diets that are very high in fat from processed and fast foods tend to contain less nutritional value than lower-fat diets that include a mix of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
“A person should aim at consuming three servings of low fat or fat-free dairy products per day. People should try to eat four servings of canned, dried, fresh, or frozen fruits each day.
Try to consume one to two servings of eggs, non-fried fish, lean meats, legumes, nuts, seeds, or skinless turkey or chicken per day. Consume three to six servings of grains such as bread, brown rice, barley, oatmeal every day,” Bukaba urges.