For a long time fats were demonised and feared as being the cause for being overweight, and in turn, a poor level of general health. And in a way it kind of makes sense, fat makes us fat right? Well, no, not exactly. Can it be a contributing factor? Absolutely. Is it the big bad evil that is completely responsible? Absolutely NOT.
Fat is an ESSENTIAL nutrient that our bodies need to operate at an optimal level and will even aid in the burning of body fat. The most important thing when it comes to fat is the same as a lot of other nutrients we need, controlling how much we have and getting the best ones we can. So lets look at some of the positive things healthy fats can do for us:
- Hormone Production: Good quality fats play an essential role in the development of hormones in our bodies, particularly testosterone (known as the fat burning hormone) and estrogen. Both of which are essential for all of us as they regulate burning of body fat, sex drive and mood. All of which I am sure can agree are important.
- Satiety: Fats take longer to digest so we stay full for longer after having them, this can then reduce the amount of snacking we might do, so inadvertently it helps reduce our calorie intake over the day, which is the key to losing body fat.
- Transport of Essential Vitamins: Another tick for the health box here! The essential vitamins A, D, E and K can only come from our diet, and the kicker to that is that once digested they will only get to where they need to go in our bodies if there is enough fat in our diet to help move them along. That’s right, you can eat the most essential vitamin rich diet in the world, but if you’re not getting enough good fat as well, you may not be absorbing most of it anyway. Because of this they help produce healthy and strong hair, nails, and skin.
Now with that in mind we also need to remember that there is a draw back with fats when over consumed. Fats are the most calorie dense of the 3 main macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fats). Carbs and protein each have 4cals per gram whereas fat has 9, so there is a bit of a difference. If you already have a fat heavy diet (good or bad) and are trying to lose weight, dropping your intake by 1/3 will have a positive impact on the waistline and will still allow you to reap the benefits. Everyone’s needs are different though so consulting a qualified PT, nutritionist or dietician would be a great idea to see roughly where you should be sitting with your intake.
Quality also counts, below are some the best sources of quality fats:
- Fish oil supplements
- Cold water fish (salmon, trout, mackerel)
- Olive oil (be very wary of amounts as it is pure fats)
These are all great options as the fats found in them are either essential fats or very high quality. When it comes to other naturally occurring sources, things like meats and dairy will also have saturated fats. This fat is not as high quality as the ones above however they do play a role and especially if you are eating a well rounded, high protein diet they will be in there. Keeping your red meat intake to a few times a week is a good way to keep the intake of saturated fats at a healthy level as well.
Some of the biggest pit falls with fats is prevalence in quick food options and cooking. Take away options will just about always have a higher fat content than what we initially think and most of the time the types of fats are of poor quality with little benefit to our overall health. Even at home, the amount of oils and butters we use will play a bigger part than most us are aware of. If you are cooking with oils, switching to a spray option is a great way to reduce your fat intake.
So there you have it, a crash course in dietary fats and why they are important to have in your diet. Remember, they are not something to be fearful of, just something to monitor.