There’s no doubt that fat has had a bad rap over the years, but what’s the deal?! Is it good to eat fat? Do we need it? What does it actually do for us and how much should we be eating to stay fit & healthy without piling on the pounds?
As a nutrition coach & trainer, I can’t tell you how much misinformation I’ve seen and heard when it comes to the topic of fat. Some choose to cut it out completely, others eat a diet that promotes the consumption of fat at the cost of not eating enough of other important nutrients like carbs and protein, (don’t even get me started on the no carb thing!), and other people are just understandably confused as to exactly what types of fat they should be eating. It’s hardly surprising there’s a tonne of confusion out there, with a sea of mixed messages readily available at our fingertips, so let’s break it down for a second and bust a few of the most common fat myths!
COMMON MYTH: FAT MAKES YOU FAT
While it’s true that fat provides 9 calories per gram, compared with only 4 calories per gram of carbs or protein, as long as your calorie intake is within a healthy range, FAT DOES NOT, I repeat NOT make you fat!
COMMON MYTH: ALL FATS ARE BAD
Not all fats are created equal. While it’s true that certain types of fats should be avoided, some fats have been found to offer significant health benefits. The predominant type of fat that a food contains is what essentially makes it healthy or unhealthy.
FACTS: So what does the science tell us? (a.k.a. “The anti-fluff!”)
Within the body, fat has some VERY IMPORTANT functions:
❤️Fat enables our bodies to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, & K (think bone health, immune support, eye health, antioxidants, reduced heart disease, reproductive health & hair growth).
❤️Fat forms an integral part of the cell membranes that make up our entire body.
❤️Fat makes up a large majority of the central nervous system & spinal cord too.
❤️Fat provides the body with insulation and temperature regulation.
❤️Fat is one of the body’s preferred forms of energy (during low intensity exercise you’ll be needing this!).
❤️Fat plays a role in hormone synthesis, and lord knows we all need our hormones to be working properly!
Monounsaturated fats, like those in the Mediterranean Diet, (think olive oil & avocados), help to reduce the risk of chronic disease and support longevity, (who doesn’t want to live longer?!). Health benefits aside, fat helps our food taste delicious and, because fat takes longer to digest, it keeps us feeling satisfied after a meal, which inevitably means less snacking (bonus!).
So WHICH FATS SHOULD WE EAT and which should we avoid?
❌TRANS FATS: AVOID WHENEVER POSSIBLE!
Trans fats lower your good cholesterol (HDL), and increase your bad cholesterol (LDL). They’ve also been linked to an increase risk of inflammation in the body which can cause serious harmful health effects including heart disease, diabetes & stroke.Examples of Trans Fats:
Deep Fried Foods
Baked Goods (Cakes, Pastries, Cookies)
And which fats help to keep us healthy?
There’s plenty of research to show that eating foods that contain monounsaturated fat can improve your blood cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Examples of Monounsaturated Fats: Nuts (Pecans, Almonds, Cashews, Peanuts), Vegetable Oils (Olive Oil, Peanut Oil), Peanut & Almond Butters (look for ones without added sugar), & Avocado.
These fats are known as essential fats, because the body’s unable to make these and therefore needs to obtain them from the foods we eat. Like monounsaturated fat, these fats have been shown to decrease your risk of heart disease by lowering your blood cholesterol levels. Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids are also included in this group of fats, which have been proven to be particularly beneficial to heart health.
Examples of Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Salmon, Herring, Sardines, Trout, Flaxseed, Walnuts & Canola Oil)
Examples of Omega 6 Fatty Acids: Walnuts, Seeds, Vegetable Oils (corn oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil) & Tofu
So now we know which fats we should be eating, exactly HOW MUCH should we be consuming to stay healthy?
The general recommendation is to get between 20% and 35% of your daily energy from healthy fats. So it’s safe to say that fats are not only okay to eat, but actually play an important role in keeping us healthy.
Fats, particularly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, are an incredibly important part of a nutritious diet, helping to keep both your heart and brain healthy. They make your food taste good, and help to keep you feeling fuller for longer, which ultimately helps in maintaining a healthy weight.
My advice, as always is to explore the foods that work best for as an individual. When choosing foods, try to bear in mind your own state of health and physical activity levels.
Choose wisely and LOVE YOUR FOOD!!