Most everyone would agree that the word fat does not conjure up good thoughts. Dietary fat seems to be the bad macronutrient that many people try to avoid. But, is fat such a bad thing?
The food we eat can be classified into three macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Furthermore, fat can be classified as saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats. The different classifications come down to the molecular makeup of the fats, but for this article we’ll address the most practical differences between these four types of fats.
Most fats are a combination of saturated, monounsaturated, and or polyunsaturated, but we’ll classify them based on their most abundant component. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature and include dairy products, animal fats, coconut products, and palm oil. Monounsaturated fats include olive oil, nuts, and avocado. Polyunsaturated fats come from vegetable oils such as soy, sunflower, and corn, as well as fish and fish oils. And finally, trans fats are not derived from natural foods but are instead man-made and found in many processed foods.
So, which fats are the best? This is where things can get complicated, but our recommendations are always based on eating as natural as possible. With that being said, let’s get rid of trans fats before we go any further. They are not a natural part of the human diet so we recommend avoiding them altogether. Polyunsaturated fats are also found in many processed foods, and we recommend limiting these types of fats, such as soy and corn oils. However, we do recommend adding fish to your diet on a weekly basis as a great source of polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and avocados are recommended daily, as well as a moderate consumption of natural saturated fats such as coconut oil and organic pasture-raised meats that contain some animal fat.
It’s worth noting that fats have a higher calorie content than protein or carbohydrates, 9 calories per gram vs. 4 calories per gram, so it’s important to limit your fats to still fall within your daily caloric needs. We recommend getting up to 35% of your daily calories from healthy fat sources.
Why are fats so important? First off, fats are an essential nutrient for the metabolic processes of our bodies, such as our ability to absorb nutrients and metabolize energy. Healthy fats support brain, skin, and joint health as well. Including fat with your meals will help you stay satiated longer by helping to control abrupt changes in blood sugar levels which is key for long-term health and weight loss. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating medium chain triglycerides, such as coconut oil, before your workout will increase fat oxidation during the workout. This means that consuming healthy fats will actually help you burn more body fat as a fuel source, therefore improving your overall body composition.
So learn to see healthy fats as an integral part of your diet and you’ll be one step closer to overall wellness.