Stop treating it like the dirty F-word.
Here’s why you need fat to lose weight, improve your mood, and boost your immune system.
The Skinny on Fat
You’ve shied away from eating it and worked on the treadmill to burn it off.
But fat, it turns out, can be your friend. “Your body needs it in order to function,”.”Fats help you absorb vitamins A, D, and E, and they are vital for your nervous system.”
Not only that, women who ate a Mediterranean diet filled with healthy monounsaturated fat lowered their risk of heart disease by 29 percent, according to a new study in Circulation.
Of your total daily calories, 25 to 30 percent should come from fat.
The keys: Pick good-for-you fats, and limit the bad kinds.
Don’t know a saturated from a poly? Here’s the skinny on which fats to eat and which to avoid.
The Good: Unsaturated Fats Monounsaturated Fats
What they do: These fats, known as MUFAs, raise good HDL cholesterol, lower bad LDL cholesterol, and protect against the buildup of plaque in your arteries.
They also help prevent belly fat, according to research.
Where you’ll find them: In olive oil and olives, canola oil, almonds, cashews, peanuts, peanut butter, sesame seeds, and avocados.
How much you need: Most of the fat you eat should be unsaturated, like MUFAs. Just two to three tablespoons of olive oil a day can raise HDL levels and protect against heart disease.
What they do: In addition to lowering your LDL, these fats contain essential omega-3 fatty acids — which boost brain function and may help strengthen your immune system and improve your mood — and omega-6 fatty acids. Which in small amounts can keep skin and eyes healthy.
Omega-6s are in corn and safflower oil, corn-fed chicken and beef, and farmed fish.
How much you need: Most of the polys you eat should be omega-3s. Too much omega-6 can lead to inflammation, which is linked to heart disease.
Trade vegetable oil for olive and canola oils, and eat grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish.
The Bad: Saturated Fats
What they do: They raise cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease.
Where you’ll find them: In meat and poultry, in dairy products like cream, butter, and whole and 2 percent milk, and in some plant foods like coconut and palm oil.
How much you need: Limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your total daily calories. One easy way to cut back: “Remove any hard fat you can see, such as the skin on chicken,”.
The Ugly: Trans Fats
What they do: Made from unsaturated fat that’s been chemically altered to prolong the shelf life of packaged foods. Trans fats raise bad LDL and lower good HDL, increasing inflammation throughout the body. “They 100 percent promote heart disease,”.
Where you’ll find them: In shortening, margarine, doughnuts, french fries, and processed foods such as crackers, cookies, chips, and cakes.
How much you need: Zero. But know this: The FDA allows food manufacturers to claim that a product contains “zero trans fats” if one serving of it has 0.5 grams of trans fats or less.
“That means if you eat more than one serving, you could be getting a gram or more,”. Before buying foods, check the ingredient labels for “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” — trans fats’ sneaky pseudonym.
How much fat do you need, anyway?
The most current recommendations for fat intake are set between 20 and 35 percent of your total calories.
This range helps ensure you get the amount of fat you need to protect your organs, absorb nutrients, produce certain hormones, help you regulate body temperature and more.
But keep in mind that the upper end is set to make sure you also get adequate nutrients from the other macros (protein and carbohydrate).
So it’s not necessarily unhealthy if you get more as long as you’re getting the nutrients you need to thrive.
One more note on fat’s functions: Aside from its role in your body, it plays an important role on your plate.
Food tastes so much better when prepared with fat-filled options (like extra-virgin olive oil, avocados and nuts), and you’ll be fuller and more physically and mentally satisfied from meals that include fat.
Here are some HEALTHY fatty foods
Half of an avocado contains nearly 15 grams of fat total. Almost 10 of those are monounsaturated (2 grams are polyunsaturated). Try it in place of mayo on your next sandwich.
Almonds (And Other Nuts)
Just about any nut can make for a healthy fat-filled snack, but almonds happen to be the lowest in calories.
One ounce — about 23 whole almonds — contains just over 14 grams of fat, including nearly 9 grams monounsaturated and about 3.5 polyunsaturated.
Salmon (And Other Fatty Fish)
Salmon may be one of the most well-known fatty fish, but tuna, mackerel and sardines also offer a heart-healthy dose of fats.
If you’re going to stick with the familiar, look for wild-caught salmon.
A three-ounce serving of chinook (often the most expensive option, according to Eating Well), contains nearly 9 grams of fat, including nearly 4 grams monounsaturated and about 2.5 polyunsaturated.
The milder coho salmon and the oilier sockeyeboth contain less, at around 5 total grams of fat, with nearly 2 grams each of mono- and polyunsaturated fat.
Olives (And Olive Oil)
Mixing 10 large olives into your next salad will add about 5 grams of fat, 3.5 of which are monounsaturated and .4 of which are polyunsaturated.
Not an olive fan? The oil is an even more concentrated source of healthy fats — just don’t be too heavy-handed on your pour: A single tablespoon contains over 13 grams of fat, nearly 10 of which are monounsaturated and about 1.5 are polyunsaturated.
Flax (And Other Seeds)
One tablespoon of whole flaxseed — which you can toss into salads, soups, smoothies, yogurt and more — contains just over 4 grams of fat. Including nearly 1 gram monounsaturated and almost 3 grams polyunsaturated.
Flax seeds also contain anywhere from 75 to 800 times more lignans. A component of plants that act as antioxidants, than other plant foods, WebMD reported.
A tablespoon of sesame seeds contains about 1.5 grams of monounsaturated fat and 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat. And an ounce of pumpkin seeds pack about 2 grams of monounsaturated fat and 2.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat.
One large, whole egg has almost 5 grams of fat, including roughly 2 grams monounsaturated and about 1 polyunsaturated.
Which fats should you cut back on?
A maximum of 10% of your daily calorie requirement should come from saturated fat (20g for women or 30g for men), but many of us exceed this.
Saturated fats are found in cakes, biscuits, cheese, butter, cream, coconut oil and fatty cuts of meat.
Here are simple ways to reduce your saturated fat intake.
- Trim the visable fat off meat or choose lean meats such as turkey, chicken and lean cuts of pork.
- Choose a more mature cheese so you can have all the flavour while using less cheese. Or choose reduced or lower fat options.
- Use low-fat yoghurt in place of cream or crème fraîche.
- Use liquid plant-based oils such as olive, rapeseed or sunflower oil, rather than butter, for cooking. It’s a good idea to measure oil with a teaspoon rather than free pouring it, as oil is still high in calories.
- Use cooking methods that don’t require extra fat, such as steaming and microwaving, rather than frying.
And those anti-inflammatory fats?
When your body has an overactive inflammatory process. It ups your risk of most of the diseases you’re concerned about, like heart disease, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
The fats from foods, like olive oil, nuts and seeds and fatty fish (like salmon and sardines) help calm this response.
But some fats trigger this overactive inflammatory response. So it’s also important to reduce your consumption of them.
These omega-6-rich oils — the polyunsaturated oils, like soybean, corn and safflower oil — are found mainly in processed, convenience foods. A form of these fats is also found in factory-farmed animals who graze on grains instead of grass.
We consume about 20 times the amount of these fats compared to the anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats — a balance that’s way off from the 1:1 ratio that we evolved to consume.
To create a healthier balance and calm internal inflammation. Look at the ingredient list in oil-containing foods and choose ones with anti-inflammatory oils, like extra virgin olive and avocado oils.
These should be your go-to cooking oils, too. When possible, choose grass-fed meat and pasture-raised eggs for their higher omega-3 and lower omega-6 contents.
And of course, regularly eat nuts, seeds and oily fish (if you aren’t vegan or vegetarian) for their anti-inflammatory fats.
Keep in mind, though, that it’s not just about the fats you eat. You also need to cut back on other foods, like processed grains and added sugars, that promote inflammation.
Three Health Benefits of eating FAT
1. Fat is essential to brain health
Did you know that brain tissue is made up of nearly 60% fat?
A diet low in fat actually robs your brain of the materials it needs to function properly.
I’m not just talking about the essential fatty acids and omega 3’s that are making all the headlines (fats found in food like salmon, avocados and nuts) but also some of the saturated fats which we have been told for years to avoid, including natural animal fats.
Essential vitamins such as A, D, E and K are not water soluble and require fat to get transported and absorbed by the body. These vitamins are crucial for brain health and many of our vital organs.
Vitamin D is now being widely touted as an important element in decreasing susceptibility to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression and other brain disorders and omega 3 is said to sharpen your cognitive function as well as to improve your mood.
2. Fat is good for your heart
Many studies have been done on the benefits of eating saturated fats. Fats we have been told to avoid for the last 50 or so years.
One study in particular focused on a population in the Pacific Isles who eat up to 60% of their diet in the form of saturated coconut oil and have shown practically no incident of heart disease.
Also, fat provides twice the caloric energy as carbs – 9 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram. So not only will it sustain you energy for a longer time but will also help you to eat less as it keeps the body satisfied.
But stay away from trans-fats. These are the true evil monsters made by adding hydrogen atoms to saturated fat during the heating process. These manipulated fats do nothing but make bad foods last longer on the shelf.
3. Stronger Bones & Less Risk of Osteoporosis
Healthy fats in the right ratio are needed for bone mineral density and the prevention of osteoporosis.
Fats are involved in calcium metabolism and the vitamins K2 and D are both fat-soluble nutrients that collaborate in building bone.
Many factors influence bone health, but providing the building blocks for bone with adequate “good” fats and the ideal omega-3 and -6 ratio can only help.
Bottom Line Enjoy saturated fat and monounsaturated fats in as whole a form as possible (avocados and olives) to get adequate vitamin D and K2. Get your omega-3 to -6 ratio in the 2 to 1 range for best bone health.
Fat is one of the three essential macronutrients the body needs, along with carbohydrates and protein. A balanced diet should include healthful monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Some of the best sources of these fatty acids include avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. People should also be sure to limit the amount of saturated fat in the diet and avoid even small intakes of trans fats.
Beginner? Read these great 11 Amazing Top Tips For The Nutrition Beginner