Fats Don’t Make You Fat!
Fats are not your enemy.
Fats are an essential part of our nutrition, but choosing the right fats in the right amounts can make the difference in our health. Fats make up the wall of every cell in our body, help our body absorb and transport certain vitamins, and are also our body’s method of storing a substantial amount of energy. Fats are our most dense source of calories at 9 calories per gram and many fat containing foods, such as processed foods, can also lack in nutrition, which is a recipe for poor health and excess body fat. Not all fats are created equal, there are many different types:
Saturated fats: Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are mostly found in animal foods like meats and dairy products, but are also found in some plant foods such as palm oil and coconut oil. Poultry and fish generally contain less saturated fat than red meat, which can make them a more balanced nutrition source. Some studies indicate that people who’s diets are low in saturated fat have low incidence of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It is recommended to consume less than 10% of total calories form saturated fat. Eating saturated fats from wild fish and free range animals has been shown to have less negative effect on health than eating conventional meats.
Trans fats: Trans fats are a processed food that does not exist in nature. These fats are made from plant sources and are processed to make the fats solid at room temperature, which makes them last longer and gives food crispy and crunchy textures. Trans fats are found primarily in processed foods such as chips, crackers, margarine, cookies, frozen foods, and many other snack foods and processed foods. Trans fats are not something our body ever encountered in nature and consumption of trans fats is highly associated with high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and other lifestyle related diseases. The recommended amount of trans fat is less than 1% of calories, or for example, less than 2 grams if you eat a 2000 calorie diet. Be aware that legally, foods that contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving are able to be listed as having “0 grams trans fat per serving”. This means that you may be consuming hidden trans fats. Choose whole foods to avoid trans fats completely.
Unsaturated fats: Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are mostly oils from plants. Eating these fats in favor of saturated fats coming from conventional meat has been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Included in unsaturated fats are “Omega-3 fatty acids”, which are known to both lower “bad” cholesterol, and raise “good” cholesterol simultaneously. Foods high in Omega-3 are fish and shellfish as well as flax seed, flax seed oil, and walnuts. Free range meats and eggs also generally have higher amounts of Omega-3 than conventional meats and eggs.
Fat Nutrition Tips:
- Avoid processed foods to avoid unhealthy trans fats
- Choose free-range and organic animal foods to ensure the healthiest fat sources possible
- Fats are the highest calorie nutrient, so be aware of your intake to avoid weight gain
- Fat is a important nutrient, avoid low and no fat diets
- Consume approximately 20-35% or your daily calories from fat
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Sources: Michael Pollan In Defense of Food, WebMD
Author: Tony Montijo, BS Kinesiology, CPT, CES