How do we navigate all the options when it comes to addressing how much fat is too much, which fat is good and which is bad, should I only eat fats or none at all and how does fat even help my body?
Well let’s tick off the widely accepted facts, around fats:
- Fats from foods are a form of energy. Almost 60% during rest!
- Helps keep the body warm.
- Provides barriers for vital organs and bones.
- Provides structural material for cell membranes and helps with cell signalling.
So if fats are so vital… why has there been so many warnings/not-warnings/misinformation spread around the internet and tv?
Well, much like anything, too much fat can be a bad thing!
A quick lesson on “bad fats” and I say bad because your body does make use of smaller amounts of these ones. LDL and HDL cholesterol get a bad wrap, which isn’t fair, you actually need them.
The issue comes from our western diets which easily pile on a higher volume of these lipoprotein carriers (fats).
The most common place our diets access too much of these fats are animal products.
So a simple fix, try to choose lean cuts more often and if you consume dairy, lower fat variations can make a difference.
Alternatively, if you have quite a meat-dense diet, you can substitute a meal and make sure that there is some mono unsaturated or polyunsaturated fats to replace the animal fats, such as avocados,nuts or seeds.
Notice I didn’t say to cut out fats altogether!
A major problem seen in growing athletes is a diet TOO low in overall fats which leads to deficiencies in other vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients.
As a practical guideline, if you incorporate at least a teaspoon of fat in every meal you will likely meet the minimum requirements.
If unsure, checking in with your doctor is always a great way to find out if you are in the ballpark by running some simple blood tests as well.
Lastly, I want to leave you with some practical guidelines.
The seven country study established that a diet high in fat isn’t a problem, when it consists more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats compared to saturated animal fats (K. T. B. Knoops et al, 2004).
Cook with olive oil.
Nibble on nuts, they don’t just contain fats, but vitamin E, soluble fibre, protein and phytochemicals.
Get some fish in your diet. We’ve all heard of the benefits of Omega 3 oils and a fatty fish diet can deliver big time on this.
Limit fatty meats, whole-milk products and tropical oils.
Knoops, K.T.B., De Groot, L.C.P.G.M., Kromhout, D., Perrin, A.-E., Moreiras-Varela, O., Menotti, A., Van Staveren, W.A., 2004. Mediterranean Diet, Lifestyle Factors, and 10-Year Mortality in Elderly European Men and Women. JAMA 292, 1433.. doi:10.1001/jama.292.12.1433