Watch the video or read it all here….everything I want my clients to know about FATS!
Fun Fact: Fat does not automatically get stored as Fat in the body!
Fats ARE Good
There is a huge media propaganda and food industry myth that all fats are bad, however that is just not true. Fats, like the other macronutrients Carbohydrates and Proteins, are essential for our body to function properly. So just what are fats used for in our body?
- Predominant source of energy
- Protect vital organs
- Keep body temperature normal
- Carry vitamins through bloodstream
- High fat foods tend to have better flavor and texture
- Keep you full longer
- Healthy brain development and function (super important for everyone, but especially pregnant women and children)
Fats in Our Body
Fats can be divided into four main categories, which you will see on food labels: Unsaturated (Mono- or Poly-), Saturated, Trans Fats, and Cholesterol. Unsaturated fats are generally referred to as “healthy fats” and something you shouldn’t have to worry about.
For years, the government toted Saturated Fats as a leading cause for heart disease and so started the food industry in taking fat out of naturally-occurring fatty foods like milk. In recent studies, however, it is being proven that Saturated fats were not the problem but rather the source of the saturated fats (think Coconut vs. Donut) that actually accounted for rise in cardiovascular risk. The source of saturated fats should be monitored in that you choose healthy, naturally-occurring saturated fats in your diet (full fat milk, animal meat, coconut, etc.) and minimize the saturated fats that also include harmful ingredients like preservatives and sugars.
Trans fats are the grand-daddy of bad fats in our body and there is simply no place for them. You will find trans fats in lots of simple oils, so really anytime you have fast food or go to any restaurant, you should be wary. Trans fats are also found in lots of snack foods like chips, crackers, and microwavable popcorn.
Cholesterol is essential for our body to function properly. This is where the HDL’s (high-density lipoproteins) and LDL’s (low-density lipoproteins) you often hear about come into play. HDL’s are labeled “good” cholesterol, and in fact, high levels of HDL’s in your system can actually reduce your risk of heart disease. LDL’s are the “bad” cholesterol, and too many of these can increase your risk of blocked arteries and heart disease.
Healthy Vs. Not-So-Good
Just like any macronutrient, there are still some “bad” sources of fats that should be avoided and “good” sources that should not be left out of your diet. I categorize a food as “Not-So-Good” when it is super high in calories but low in nutrient value (think vitamins and minerals, does nothing for the body).
Healthy Fat Options: Avocado, Eggs*, Grass-Fed Butter, Olives, Fish, Dark Chocolate (70% or higher), Full Fat Milk, Full Fat Cottage Cheese, Nuts, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Coconut, Full Fat Yogurt
Not-So-Good Fat Options: Donuts, Fast Food (trans fats), Corn Chips, Desserts, and Margarine
*It is worth noting that you should consume entire eggs. The yolk and the white each contain their own unique blend of vitamins and minerals that are best absorbed together in the body, not separately. Also, eating eggs does not necessarily mean you will automatically get high cholesterol, as sometimes stated by medical professionals to scare people into a “better diet.” Please take diet advice from the appropriate professionals: certified trainers, dietitians or nutritionists.
Watch Your Labels
Because of the scare of fat seen in our society over the last 50 years, there has been a lot of misinformation out there. You can see this in many labels in the grocery store for seemingly “healthy” products. You may have been taught to reach for skim milk or low-fat cheese. These are even more “processed,” which is why the naturalist and health professional in me chooses the full fat options.
Be wary of labels reading “low-fat,” “reduced-fat,” or “fat free.” If the fat has been taken out of something, it probably does not taste good so that fat has to be replaced with something else. Usually that something is sugar or artificial sweeteners that are not good for you. Instead, choose the full fat option with naturally occurring fats, or skip the food altogether. Labels can still be deceiving. A label can claim to be “100% fat-free” and still contain .5 grams of fat per 100g of food. Serving sizes can also be adjusted on the label to fit certain claims on the front of the package. Just because something says it is “all natural” does not mean it is, so always check your labels on the back!
Try to get your fat intake around 20-30% of your total intake. Choose healthy, naturally occurring saturated fats and unsaturated fats, with maybe a few splurges on dessert. For my pregnant or nursing women, 30% fat is best to help promote growing brains.