Fats are often considered the black sheep of the macronutrient family. When people commit to a new diet, they often shy away from fats as they believe that by eating them they're going to get fat and that is 100% incorrect.
I want you to look at fat as fuel and prioritise healthy fats in your diet that can help you live a longer and healthier life. Don't get me wrong, there are unhealthy fats that you should avoid, but don't worry, I'll tell you about those later.
Read on to learn more about fat, which fats to avoid, how eating more fat can help you lose weight, and how much you should probably consume each day.
What are fats?
The scientific name for fats is lipids, a type of biomolecule. Lipids are made up of building blocks called fatty acids, of which there are four types: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, and trans fats.
Types of fats (and which to avoid)
Of the four types of fats, there are both good and bad ones, so it's important to choose wisely.
Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats (eat more)
Unsaturated fat is usually liquid at room temperature and is found in many plant-based foods. These are commonly referred to as "healthy" fat.
Eating healthy fat has been shown to have several health benefits, including improving heart health, reducing inflammation, helping to lower bad cholesterol (LDL), and preventing conditions that relate to controlling blood sugar levels like type 2 diabetes.
Foods that contain unsaturated fat include cold-water fish; most nuts and seeds; canola, peanut, sesame, and olive oil; and avocado.
Saturated fats (eat less)
Saturated fat is probably the reason why fats get such a bad rap. It is typically solid at room temperature and is found in animal products, such as meat and dairy.
Consuming too much saturated fat is like playing a game of cholesterol roulette, it can raise "bad" cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease.
Foods that contain saturated fat include palm oil, condensed milk, coconut, fatty meat, butter, and full-cream dairy products.
Trans fats (avoid)
Trans fat is artificially created, which makes it solid and far less healthy. You'll find trans fat in many processed foods, such as fried foods and baked goods.
Similar to saturated fat, trans fat can raise "bad" cholesterol and lower "good" cholesterol (HDL)—so it's doubly as bad for your heart health.
Foods that contain trans fat include hydrogenated vegetable oils, cakes and pastries, chocolate, and deep-fried or fast foods.
How your body uses fats
When you eat foods that contain fats, your body digests them into smaller molecules (fatty acids and glycerol). These molecules are then absorbed into the bloodstream and are transported to cells all over your body, where they can be used for energy or stored.
When the body requires energy, it can break down stored fatty acids and glycerol to produce energy. And fats are damn good at providing it, every gram of fat provides 9 calories, which is over twice as much as protein or carbohydrates.
While energy production is one of the primary functions of fats, it's not the only way your body uses it. Other important functions include:
Absorbing vitamins (specifically A, D, E, and K)
Supporting healthy brain function
Maintaining healthy skin and hair
Supporting hormone production and regulation
Can eating more fat help you lose weight?
The simple answer is yes, you can eat more healthy fat and still lose weight. There are effective (albeit questionably sustainable) weight-loss diets that drastically increase the amount of fat you consume each day, such as the keto diet.
Healthy fat is number one for satiation. It can physically and mentally allow you to better control hunger as you will not feel the urge to overeat. However, it's important to remember that all fats are high in calories, so it's still possible to gain weight if you consume too much. Here are some general guidelines to follow:
When to eat more fat
As a replacement for unhealthy sources of fat (saturated and trans fats)
When you are restricting calories and struggle to manage hunger.
If you hit your macro targets but not your calorie target (fats are high in calories, so you can decrease your carbohydrates and increase your fats—no, you won't lose energy)
To support overall health and wellness (fats have several health benefits)
When to eat less fat
If you don't track your macros and aim to lose weight (again, fats are high in calories and your intake should be monitored)
If you have a health condition that requires a low-fat diet
If you are following a specific low-fat diet for medical reasons
So what should you do?
There's no single correct answer to this question; a good diet is both balanced and sustainable. However, it's recommended to consume a variety of different types of fats in moderation and to focus on overall calorie balance.
The recommendation for most adults is to aim for a total fat intake between 25–35% of their daily calories.
For example, if you consume 2,000 calories a day, you should consume between 56–77 grams of fat per day. However, the exact amount of fat that is right for you will vary depending on several physical factors, your individual needs (macro ratio), and your health status.
One thing that doesn't differ is the recommendation to drastically reduce or avoid saturated and trans fats and prioritise foods that contain unsaturated "healthy" fats.
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