The western world has been obsessed with fat-free and low fat diets for decades, yet 2/3 of us are overweight or obese. So what should we know about fat in our diet? Why do we refer to fats in the plural? Are some better than others?
An article from The Cleveland Clinic did a wonderful job of clarifying the importance of fat in our diet as well how much of it we should eat.
“The dietary reference intake (DRI) for fat in adults is 20% to 35% of total calories from fat. That is about 44 grams to 77 grams of fat per day if you eat 2,000 calories a day. It is recommended to eat more of some types of fats because they provide health benefits. It is recommended to eat less of other types of fat due to the negative impact on health.”
Why is fat important to include in our diets? Well, our bodies rely on fat as one of the three macronutrients we get from food, alongside protein and carbohydrates. It insulates our bodies, protects our organs and is a source of fatty acids that our bodies can’t make. It acts to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and serves our bodies as a source of energy, as well as a component of cell walls.
In order to understand where we get the fats we eat and what role these different fats play in our overall health, let’s do a quick overview.
Polyunsaturated fat (including Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids) is one of the good guys. It’s found in walnuts, sunflower seeds, fish and some plant oils. This is one of the fats that the body needs, but isn’t able to make. It’s important for brain heath, cell growth, and it helps reduce bad cholesterol in the blood.
Monounsaturated fat, another one of the good guys, comes from plant oils and is also found in avocados, seeds and nuts. The best way to identify it is that it remains liquid at room temperature. Eaten in moderation, it has positive health effects. It can help lower bad cholesterol while performing some other important bodily functions.
Saturated Fat is like the kid who always gets in a lot of mischief in the schoolyard. That kid might be exciting to be around, but if you hung out together, you’d soon find yourself in trouble as well. Saturated fat is predominantly found in meat and dairy products, but processed foods have it through the use of coconut and palm oil. Most of us eat too much saturated fat. You know saturated fat when you see it because it’s solid at room temperature. Decades of sound science show that saturated fats contribute to bad cholesterol and put people at higher risk of heart disease, so you should limit the amount of saturated fat you eat.
Trans Fats are human-made or manufactured fats and are just plain bad for you. Lock them out. They’re predominantly found in processed foods. Enough said.
So now that you know your fats, you can be aware of what you’re eating. Just keep in mind that fat contains the highest calorie load of all the nutrients, so it’s important to stay within the recommended dietary guidelines. When we eat too much of it, it gets stored as….well, fat.
A plant-based or flexitarian diet will make it a lo