For a long time there has been a war on fats, claiming that the intake of fats, particularly saturated fats, leads to weight gain and heart disease. This ideology became popular in the 1970's, leading to the low-fat diet. However, here was not significant proof to uphold these statements that became highly repetitive in the media. Studies over the past few decades have shown that not only are there no difference in weight loss between diets containing fat and those that are low-fat, but low-fat diets can be harmful by leading to increased triglyceride levels and lowering HDL (good) cholesterol. Increased weight gain and heart disease have further resulted from these fat restrictions since the replacement for fat in the standard American diet has consisted of simple carbohydrates which are stored as fat in the body.
So today I want to clear fats' name. In fact, healthy fats could be one of your best allies when it comes to optimizing your nutrition and changing your body composition.
The amount of fat you should have in your diet varies based on your goals. However, in most cases, you need more fat than you realize. If you'd like to know how much your daily fat intake should be, shoot me an email and I can work with you.
Aren't we trying to reduce body fat? Why do we need fats in our diet?
- Every cell in the human body consists of fats for cell walls and membranes, as well as for nutrients transport into and out of cells.
- Fats also make up hormones and steroids in the body.
- They allow for important vitamins (such as vitamin D, A, E and K) to be absorbed.
- They are also vital for proper brain function. Got brain fog? More fats will likely help.
- Inflammation is managed through healthy fats such as omega-3's.
- Most importantly, when the body is in a resting state (aka not exercising) we use fat to fuel our bodies through activities such as sitting, working, and other day-to-day things. If we are not getting adequate fat intake, the body is not conditioned to utilize fats readily available in the digestive system for energy.
Also, fats are delicious. Our brains and bodies are engineered to crave fat. We need it for energy and for functioning properly, so if you're craving meat, chances are your body is asking for not only the protein, but the fat that comes with it.
So where do we get all of the necessary fats from our diet?
- Animal meats and fats - These should be your main source of fats since they are naturally occurring
- Fatty fish - salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Butter and ghee
- Nuts and seeds - Almonds, pistachios, cashews, macadamias, chia, flax, etc
- Fish oils
Not all fats are created equally. Those listed above include monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats - the good fats when in moderation. Trans fats are those that can be dangerous to your health, particularly cholesterol levels. These fats are known to be hydrogenated, meaning they are combined with hydrogen gas to create a longer shelf life.
Here are a few common foods trans fats are found in:
- Commercially baked products - cookies, cakes, crackers, bread, doughs
- Packaged snack foods - chips, candy, crackers
- Solid fats - stick margarine, vegetable shortening
- Fried foods - french fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets
- Pre-mixed products - cake and pastry mix, pancake and waffle mix
- Anything containing "partially hydrogenated" in the ingredients
Check the ingredients of the products you buy. All hydrogenated ingredients contain trans fats, and restaurants often use partially hydrogenated fats to cook food. If possible, ask that your food be prepared with olive oil.
So many clients are shocked when I tell them that bacon can be included in their diet. It's as simple as this - buy quality bacon! Bacon is a natural protein and happens to have a decent amount of fat contained in each serving - natural fat that is. Buy bacon that doesn't contain sugar in particular. Just like you should be for everything you buy, check the ingredients and make sure that the bacon contains quality ingredients and zero sugar. Then enjoy that delicious natural animal fat!