Are you afraid of fatty foods? Don’t be. In additional to helping food taste good, fats play an important part in a healthy, balanced diet. I’ll cover the basics about fats, which ones to avoid and ones that play an important part in our overall health.
Each gram of fat mounts to 9 calories, which is why foods high in fat mount to a large amount of calories. 9 calories per gram is way higher compared to 4 calories in carbohydrates and 4 in protein.
Unsurprisingly, fat breakdown occurs when your body runs on a calorie deficit, if you want to learn more about maintaining a calorie deficit and dropping body fat click here. In a healthy adult, calorie deficits mainly occur when their daily energy expenditure ie general movement, digestion, exercise and resting metabolic rate (RMR) is less than the amount of calories they are consuming. When this happens, our bodies tap into its fat stores and breaking them for energy.
Why We Need Fat
Fat is crucial, so much that our bodies figured out a way to make fat even if we eat very low levels. Fat also helps our bodies function correctly in several ways:
- Protects Vital Organs and Maintains Healthy Cells – Healthy amounts of fat is protective. It plays a protective role for cells because it’s an important component of every cell’s membrane or “wall” that protects against invaders. It also protects your organs by cushioning them from the impact of everyday living. You also need certain fats to build and maintain a healthy brain and concentration levels.
- Fat Fuels Our Daily Activities – from sitting in front of your computer to walking the dog — fat is the main fuel our bodies burn for energy. Generally, during activity where your heart rate is less than 70% of its maximal rate, fat serves as your body’s primary source of fuel. Not surprisingly, significant fat breakdown occurs when your body runs on a calorie deficit. When you take in fewer calories than you burn, your body taps into its fat stores, breaking them down for energy through a process called “beta oxidation.”
- Fat Helps You Maintain a More Blood Steady Sugar Level – Fat aids the release of CCK, a hormone that helps you feel fuller after a meal. Pairing high-fat foods with carb foods helps prevent a rapid spike in blood sugar because fat slows digestion and keeps you feeling fuller for longer, which lessens the feel for more ‘picking’ throughout the day.
Different Types of Fat
Fat is found in a wide variety of foods — either from its natural content or added during processing and cooking. Naturally occurring fats tend to be found in dairy, meat and fish, nuts and seeds, oil and fatty fruits (Think: olive oil and avocado). Added fats tend to be found in processed, packaged goods and typically fast foods. Not all fats are created equal when it comes to health.
Here’s a run down of common fats in food:
Solid at room temperature, saturated fat mostly comes from animal sources like meat, particularly red meat, and dairy. Certain plants and their oil are high in saturated fat, such as coconut and palm. Virtually all major health organizations advise us to eat less saturated fat since it raises LDL cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease.
Most trans fat found in food are synthetically made by taking liquid unsaturated fat and blasting it with hydrogen so it resembles solid saturated fat. This makes foods more shelf stable, easier to cook with and allows manufacturers to replace saturated fat in their products. However evidence has revealed trans fats are one of the worst things for your heart. Not only do trans fat increase LDL (bad) cholesterol, but they also decrease HDL (good) cholesterol.
MONOUNSATURATED (MUFA) AND POLYUNSATURATED FAT (PUFA)
These fats are what we think of when we say “healthy” fats because they don’t carry the same risk for heart disease as saturated and trans fat. Generally, MUFA and PUFA are found in high-fat, plant-based foods such as avocado, nuts, seeds, olives and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel.
OMEGA-3 AND OMEGA-6
While they’re technically polyunsaturated fats, the omegas deserve a separate call-out since our bodies cannot produce them and we must get these from the foods we eat. Both omega-6 and omega-3 fats play important roles in regulating our immune systems. Omega-3 fat plays an essential role in developing our vision and nervous systems.
READ MORE: Why consuming protein helps you lose fat
The nutrition field has recovered from its fat-phobia of the ‘90s. Just in case any of those old beliefs are lurking in your mind, we want to be extremely clear.
EATING FAT WILL MAKE YOU FAT
Your body stores fat mainly from excess calories. If a calorie excess is available, even if those calories are from carbs or protein, your body is fully capable of turning them into fat for storage.
YOUR BODY ONLY USES CARBS DURING EXERCISE
Your body burns a combination of carbs, fat and protein. Fat is the fuel of choice at rest and during low-intensity exercise (e.g. exercising at less than 70% maximal heart rate). Your body’s fuel of choice shifts to carbs when you exercise harder — at a moderately intense pace and beyond.
EATING LOW-FAT AND NONFAT FOODS SAVES CALORIES
Contrary to what the label might tell you, low-fat and nonfat versions of foods tend to contain more fillers and additives to make up for missing flavor. Usually in the form of sugar, artificial flavours and sweeteners.