A Bad Reputation
Fat – most people try to avoid eating it, some fear it, and others completely eliminate it from their diet. The truth is, fat has gotten a bad rep over the years. In fact, there are dozens of diets whose sole aim is to cut your daily fat intake in an effort to promote weight loss. While there are some valid reasons to avoid fat, fat is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. The key is to eat the right amount and types of fat.
Fat: You Need It
Your body primarily runs on 3 important nutrients called macronutrients. The 3 Macronutrients, or Macros, are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Each macronutrient performs a different role in the body and while they are all equally important, they do not affect your body in the same way. For example, fat, unlike protein and carbs, is primarily an energy source. This is because fat provides 9 calories, a form of energy, per gram. In comparison, carbs and proteins only provide 4 calories per gram.
Along with providing energy, fat is also very important for organ function. Your brain especially needs a sufficient amount of fat to operate properly. In fact, without enough fat your cognitive abilities and even your mood could be negatively impacted. Fat also helps your body to absorb vitamins like Vitamins A and D and regulates your genes and hormones, among other things. However, while fat is very important to have a healthy body, all fats are not the same.
Different Kinds of Fats
Fats are categorized into 4 groups: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, and trans fats. These 4 categories of fats have different molecular structures that influence how they impact your body. While distinguishing between molecular structure is important, the most important thing is to recognize the difference between fats in your everyday life. For example, monounsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature, i.e. olive oil, sunflower oil, etc. This fat, when eaten in moderation, can reduce your risk of developing heart disease and help manage your cholesterol levels. Likewise, polyunsaturated fats, or fats found in fish, nuts and seeds, can also help with your heart health. Some polyunsaturated fats are also known as omega 3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve inflammation, diabetes, heart disease and even depression. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are, for the most part, healthy fats that should be a part of a balanced diet.
In contrast, saturated and trans fats can easily begin to impact your health in a negative manner. Saturated fat is primarily found in dairy products, meat, poultry, and eggs. While saturated fats are not in themselves ‘bad’, when you eat too much of them you can increase your bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and put yourself at risk for weight gain. The same is true for trans fats. While trans fats can be a part of a healthy diet, for the most part you should try to avoid them. Trans fats can be found in shortening, margarine, baked goods, flavored coffee creamers, other prepackaged foods, and even popcorn (Cleveland Clinic, Fat). When you each too much trans fats you increase your chances of developing inflammation, diabetes, unhealthy cholesterol levels, belly fat, and even certain types of cancers.
How Much Fat Per Day?
So, how do you know just how much fat you should eat per day? Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all answer. Your age, gender, activity level, and fitness goals will all affect how much fat your body needs. However, for the average adult, about 25-35% of your daily calories should come from fat. If a person eats 2,000 calories daily, they would consume between 55 and 77 grams of fat. To keep a balanced diet your saturated and trans fat intake should account for no more than 10% of your total calories. Also, it’s important to remember that a high fat diet is not necessarily unhealthy. Highly praised low carb diets like Keto are high fat diets. In fact, on a Keto diet more than 50% of your calories come from fat. The most important thing is the type of fat that you are consuming, rather than how much.
The Final Consensus
Despite its reputation, fat is an important part of any diet. However, the key is to eat the right types of fat. Healthy fats can be found everywhere from avocados and nuts to olives and cheese. Making better choices can be as easy as replacing animal fat with vegetable oils, choosing skim milk over whole milk, or choosing vinegar and oil over other salad dressings. By approaching your diet in a balanced way, opting for whole foods and choosing healthier fats, you can successfully manage your fat intake and reach your fitness goals.
– Fat Grams – How Much Fat Should You Eat Per Day?
– Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations
– Fat: What You Need to Know
– The Skinny on Fat: Good Fats vs. Bad Fats