People often cringe at the sound of the word fat especially when it pertains to eating but fat intake is essential to your health and weight loss. Your body uses fat for various functions of the body including nutrient transport, brain function, and energy. Fat intake is also essential for the growth of healthy skin and hair. It is recommended that our diets contain between 25-35% fat. Fat should be included in a healthy diet although the type of fat should be considered carefully because all fats are not created equal.
The “Not So Good For You” Fats
Studies have show that two fats-saturated and trans-fat can cause a higher incident of insulin resistance compared to other fats. Saturated fats are found in whole and low-fat dairy as well as meats like beef, chicken, lamb, and pork. It is recommended that only 10% of your diet contain saturated fats. As we discussed previously, high consumption of saturated fats has a strong correlation to heart disease.
Trans fats are not naturally occurring fats. Trans fats have been manufactured to prolong the shelf life of a food product. Trans fats make an appearance in many processed and prepared foods. It is a good idea to avoid these fats and check your pre-packaged food for traces of trans-fat. The FDA now requires food manufacturers to list the amount of trans fat per serving.
The Good For You Fats
Just like your body needs proteins from your diet to aid vital functions, fat is also a necessary component to good health. Let’s take a look at the differences of the good fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) can reduce insulin resistance and lower the “lousy” LDL cholesterol. MUFAs are also chemically stable meaning that they have great protective qualities. Also called Omega-9s, MUFAs show up in the following foods: most nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, and peanuts), olive oil, sesame seeds, coconut oil, and avocados. The recommended amount of MUFAS is 10% of your daily dietary intake.
Polyunsaturated fats are also very good for you and a wonderful fat to include into your weekly diet. Two main components of the PUFAs are the Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids. These fats are called essential because our body cannot produce them through biological processes so we must ingest them to gain the benefits.
Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in cold-water fish and fish oils, flax oil and seed, other seeds, and some algae. Omega-3 fatty acids are very beneficial to our body. They support our immune system, reduce inflammation in joints and skin, and improve heart health by lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It is recommended to eat omega 3 rich foods three to four times a week or take a daily supplement.
Our Western diet (a diet high in red meat) promotes higher levels of Omega-6 but the more balanced approach would be to consume 1 part omega-6 to 2 parts Omega-3. Omega-6 food sources include: butter, red meat, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, soybean, safflower, and corn oils.
Fats are an important part of our dietary life. Fat intake will NOT make you fat as long as you stick to the healthier options and the recommended percentages of fat intake per day. In fact, fat intake is important to good health and will aid in weight loss. Next time you are in the grocery store flip the box over and check out the fat contain to make sure you are staying within the healthy range.
Note: Just because some fats are good for you doesn’t mean more is better. Balance is the key to food intake and healthy weight loss.