Healthy fats are an extremely confusing topic. There is a lot of information out there about what is a good fat, what is a bad fat, and what fats you should eat. In this article, we are going to talk about what fats do in the body, why we need fats, and how much fat we should eat. We will also go over the best sources of fat for your body and some fit fat swaps to keep you running smoothly!
What are fats?
“Any of various soft, solid, or semisolid organic compounds comprising the glyceride esters, ketones, and related compounds of fatty acids and associated sterols, alcohols, hydrocarbons, ketones, and related compounds.”- Frederick C. Hatfield, PhD.
Say whaatt? The definition above is pretty technical. Let’s break it down into layman’s terms.
Fats are used primarily as a secondary source of energy, behind carbohydrates. Fat reserves are there to rescue you once you deplete your carbohydrate stores. Fats are found in either solid (coconut oil) or liquid (olive oil) form and are generally referred to as lipids. Despite the fact that carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy, fats are your most concentrated source of energy packing 9 calories per gram.
What are the different kinds of fats?
There are four main classifications of fats: free fatty acids, triglycerides, phospholipids, and cholesterol. Free fatty acids are used as energy by muscles and other tissues. Triglycerides make about about 95% of dietary fat as well as fat in the body and is used for fuel and storage. Phospholipids work in the cell membrane and help to dissolve fats. Cholesterol, that dreaded word, also works in the cell membrane and provides starting material for bile salts, vitamin D, and steroids.
Saturated fat comes primarily from animal sources and dairy products, but can be found in other products as well. Trans fats are found mainly in hydrogenated oils like margarine and vegetable oil. Saturated fats and trans fats are the main instigators for the artery clogging action that can damage the cardiovascular system.
Unsaturated fats are the more heart healthy fats, which are found mostly in vegetables and contain both polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are also be found in olive, canola, and peanut oils. Avocados and nuts contain monounsaturated fats. Soybean, corn, safflower, and sunflower oils contain polyunsaturated fats.
MCTs, or medium chain triglycerides, can be absorbed the quickest and most efficiently. These fats are great for long, intense workouts or competitions because of their ability to sustain energy. MCT is found in coconut oil as well as other sources.
What are healthy fats vs. unhealthy fats?
Some fats work against your body while other types of fats work with your body. A diet high in saturated fats and trans fats can lead to a whole host of health issues. Unsaturated fats are considered to be the healthy fats because they are easier for your body to use and to absorb. Keeping a diet low in saturated fats and trans fats and moderate in unsaturated fats will keep you feeling awesome.
What do fats do in the body?
Fats have many different functions in the body. One function of fat is one of storage and fuel. Another function of fat in the body is to pad the vital organs and skeleton. A third function of fats in the body is to insulate nerve fibers and tissue to speed up nervous impulses. Fat is also part of all cell membranes. Lastly, fat is used as the starting material of other molecules such as cholesterol made into vitamin D, steroid hormones, etc.
What’s the deal with low fat diets?
Low fat diets are, essentially, low calorie diets. Fats are the highest calorie per gram macronutrient. Therefore, when you cut back fats you are significantly cutting back calories, even if you increase your carbs and protein a little bit. Low fat diets are not good for you at all because they are robbing you of a nutrient that your body needs to function. Some people cannot tolerate high fat. No one can tolerate low/no fat for very long because, well, peanut butter right? Sticking with a moderate fat diet is a great way to keep your energy, and your health, at optimal levels.
How much fat should I eat?
There is a lot of information out there about how much fat you should eat. High fat (keto) or low fat or no fat or moderate fat. Two general rules. First, everything in moderation. Therefore, a moderate fat diet is the key. Keto has worked for many people and if you have tried it and it works for you, great! However for most people, a moderate fat diet will probably work best. The second general rule is to eat about .35-.5 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight. So for a 140lb person, 49-70g of fat per day is a good range. If you are eating lower carbohydrates, aim for the higher end of the fat scale. If you are eating higher carbohydrates, eat on the lower end of the fat scale. Somewhere in the middle is the money spot for most people!
What are some healthy fat sources?
Note: This is not an all inclusive list. You do not always have to stick to these fats! If you want some butter on your potato once and a while, go for it! However, the majority of the fats in your diet should come from these fats or those similar to these fats:
- Natural Nut Butter
- Raw nuts
- Olive Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Raw seeds
- Fatty fish such as salmon
What are some healthy fat swaps for unhealthy fat sources?
A lot of times we fill our diets with unhealthy fats. Fatty steaks, mayo, roasted nuts, vegetable oil, etc. Healthy fats are truly an excellent part of a your diet. Try out these fit swaps in your day to keep you cruising along with your goals!
Wrapping Up Healthy Fats
I personally love having healthy fats in my diet. Eating these healthy fats gives me the energy that I need to get through a busy day and a grueling workout! The sustained energy that healthy fats give you is truly incredible. Do not fear fats. Fats are an essential part of your daily diet, and should be treated as such. The key takeaways from this article are: moderation is key, eating healthy fats, and do not fear the fats.
What are some of your favorite healthy fats to work into your diet? Share them in the comments so that I can check them out!