On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

I’m 87. Can I Finally Eat Some Fat?

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I have eaten well, staying away from high-fat foods, but have always held that after a person reaches 80, fat intake isn’t as harmful as it is in younger years. There are foods I would like to eat more of, but the high fat content has always stopped me because of the harmful effects it can have on the body. I am now 87. Please advise if there is a difference when the 80-plus age is reached. I do not have a weight problem. I wish to thank you for any information you can give me. -- N.F., Phoenix

DEAR N.F.: You seem to have found a good road in life, and your 87 years speak volumes. Why not enjoy the foods you’d like to eat? What are you waiting for?

A general belief that dietary fat is “harmful,” for individuals at any age, is misleading and somewhat dated. What counts is the amount and types of fat in relation to the other healthful attributes of the diet. (About the only exception are trans fats, and those are finally on the run with the latest labeling changes that require their divulgence.)

Examples of foods naturally high in fat include nuts, seeds and fruits such as the avocado and olive. These plants need their fats to reproduce, and they have succeeded over the millennia because they also produce protective phytochemical compounds to keep the fats viable. In the same way, we need to be sure that our body receives essential nutrients and healthful components from whole foods as its protectors. You then fold into this recipe an active lifestyle to keep the machinery in good operating condition. It is a simple, straightforward theme, and fat ceases to be an issue when this balance is in place.

You say that your weight is not an issue, but you didn’t indicate whether there are any other health issues you might be dealing with, or if there are medications that may be a part of your daily regimen. The food issue is straightforward, but if there is a delicate balance of ongoing medical concerns, it makes sense to touch base with your health professional before you make any radical changes.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: What does it mean when an oil is “winterized”? A bottle had this listed on its ingredient statement. The store manager had no idea, so I thought I would ask you. -- O.Q., Seattle

DEAR O.Q.: Winterization is the process by which saturated fatty acids are filtered out of an oil to help it stay clear at cooler temperatures. Oils begin to turn cloudy as the temperature drops. Similar to the way that water forms ice crystals as it freezes, the fatty acids of an oil form into crystals on their way to becoming a solid block of fat. Saturated fats have the highest melting point, which means that they are the first to solidify as the temperature drops. Polyunsaturated fats, by contrast, have low melting points, so they remain clear and liquid at cooler temperatures. The winterization process chills the oil slowly and filters out some of the crystalized saturated fatty acids. This allows the oil to remain clear at cooler temperatures.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.