The Truth About Fat
The word fat is often associated with negative connotations. Here’s the good news: not all fat is bad! In fact, you should be eating 20-35% of your daily calories from fat. So many delicious foods come to mind from avocados to salmon to a new favorite of mine, chili garlic cashews. They add amazing texture and taste to any meal. What’s even better than how they taste are the health benefits certain fats provide your body: fight inflammation, lower blood pressure, decreased risk of heart disease and stroke. Understanding the differences between the types of fat will help you maintain a healthy, active lifestyle, while still enjoying tasty food!
What is fat?
Fat is an important macro-nutrient that serves many critical bodily functions such as insulation, cell structure, nerve transmission, vitamin absorption, and hormone production. It is the most calorie dense macro-nutrient consisting of 9 calories per gram compared to the 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates and proteins. Because of this, fats should be consumed in moderation, but not avoided! Choose foods that are rich in healthy fats and low in unhealthy fats
Types of Fats
Unsaturated Fat: These are the healthiest fats to eat. There are two types: monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.
Monounsaturated Fat: Commonly found in cooking oils, avocados, cashews, almonds, and peanuts. You should consume 15-20% of your calories from monounsaturated fat.
Polyunsaturated Fat: Two essential polyunsaturated fats are omega-6 fatty acids and omega 3-fatty acids. Common sources include cold-water fish (i.e. salmon, tuna, cod, mackerel), walnuts, corn, soybean oil, safflower oil, and flax seeds. Eat 3-10% of your calories from polyunsaturated fat. When eaten in place of saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats significantly decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Saturated Fat: Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature. Sources include red meat, coconut oil, full fat dairy products, and palm oil. 5-6% of calories should come from saturated fat.
Trans-Fat (aka partially hydrogenated fat): These are the fats you should try to avoid. They have gone through a process called hydrogenation, when unsaturated fatty acids are altered and converted into saturated fatty acids. This is done to make the liquid fat turn solid at room temperature and increase shelf life. The result is a product that increases LDL cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Manufacturers are required to list trans-fat on the nutrition facts if the product contains more than 0.5 grams. However, if it is less than 0.5 gram, they do not have to list it. The best way to make sure the product you’re buying is trans-fat free is to check the ingredient list for fully hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Try to avoid them whenever possible.
Recommended Daily Intake
For a well- rounded diet, 20-35% of your daily caloric intake should come from fat. Use the example below to help you calculate your range and stay on track.
2,000 calories x 0.20 = 400 calories of fat
2,000 calories x 0.35 = 700 calories of fat
Based on the example, this person should eat between 400-700 calories from fat per day.
Muth, N. D., & Zive, M. M. (2015). Sports Nutrition for Health Professionals. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company.