A Beginner’s Guide to Fat

healthy fat, avocado, nuts, vegetable oil

The term fat is thrown around with a negative connotation far to often. Are you afraid of fat? You shouldn’t be! Today, it is (wrongfully) ingrained into the brains of society that they should do everything in their power to steer clear from fat. If you are still following this practice, read on for some important information on nutrition.

The Importance of Fat

Fat plays an important role in a well-balanced and healthy diet. Fat actually helps our bodies to function correctly in several ways:

  • Source of energy – The fat we eat, along with the fat we make from other nutrients in our bodies, provides the energy for most of our life-functions. Any extra calories we consume but do not need to use immediately, are stored for future use in special fat cells.
  • Transporting vitamins – fat is required to move fat-soluble vitamins through the bloodstream to the areas they are needed – this includes vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Fatty acids – These can not be made by our body, but are necessary for growth development and cell functions.
  • Maintaining healthy skin and other tissues
  • Helps with staying full – When you eat fat it initiates the release of a hormone that helps you to feel full after a meal. If you experiment by replacing some of your less healthy meals with options that are high in healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) you will find you will become full by eating much less, AND will have more energy afterwards.  NOTE: MyFitnessPal users – for some reason the nutrients section of the nutrition tab lists zero grams as the goal for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, making it appear as if these are negative fats. This is incorrect! You should do whatever you can to make up the majority of the fat in your diet with these fats.
  • Helps maintain a steady blood sugar level – Fat slows down the digestion and the rate at which carbs and sugar enter your blood stream. When paired with carbs, fat will prevent a rapid spike in blood sugar.

How Much Fat Should You Consume

Adults should get 20% – 35% of their calories from fat. To determine how much fat you should consume, simply take your personal calorie goal for the day and multiply it by your fat goal and that will give you the number of fat calories you should consume on a daily basis.

For example if you have a daily calorie goal of 1200 and and a 25% fat goal you would use the following equation:

1200 calorie goal x .25 fat goal = daily fat calorie goal of 300 calories

If you are using a fitness app to track your diet, it may set this for you automatically, but you should be able to adjust it to meet the goal you want to set for yourself.

Types of Fat

This could easily turn into an entire separate blog discussing all the different types of fats, but here is a quick guide.

  • Polyunsaturated Fats
    • Goal: Get more
    • Found In: Nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and fatty fish
    • Includes: Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids
    • Benefits: Help to lower your total cholesterol which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Also provide nutrients to help develop your body’s cells.
  • Saturated Fats
    • Goal: Limit
    • Found In: Meat, seafood and dairy products as well as some plant foods like palm and coconut oil
    • Risks: Increases total cholesterol and may boost risk for type 2 diabetes
    • Recommendation: No more than 10% of total calories should come from saturated fat
  • Unsaturated Fats
    • Goal: Get more
    • Found In: Olive and vegetable Oils
    • Includes: Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats.
  • Monounsaturated Fats
    • Goal: Get more
    • Found In: Canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, nuts, seeds, avocados
    • Benefits: Raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol
  • Trans Fat
    • Goal: Eliminate
    • Found In: Many processed and fried foods
    • Risks: Increase total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol), and lower HDL (good cholesterol).
    • Tip: Food manufacturers can list that a product is trans fat free if it contains less than a half of a gram per serving, so be sure to check the nutritional information to make sure it is really a trans fat free product.

 

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