Fat has become a dirty word in many people’s vocabulary for a while now. The concern over the consumption of fat has given rise to the production of a number of “fat free” products lining our supermarket’s shelves. But fat really isn’t all that bad, in fact it’s essential for good health!
Fat supports our cells, immune system, and hormones. It helps us regulate our body temperature and helps our nerves send messages. It is also a source of fuel for our bodies and is necessary for the absorption of vitamins D, E, K, and A.
Sadly, many people have avoided eating fat out of fear it will make them fat. In reality, low fat substitutes are often loaded with sugar, making them an unhealthier choice and more likely to add weight than the full fat version. Fat is, however, the most calorically dense macronutrient. At 9 calories per gram, it is more than double the calories of protein and carbohydrates. Therefore, you want to ensure that you are consuming the right kinds of fats and in the right proportion in order to have a Mirror Friendly body.
So what kinds of fat should you eat and how much?
There are 3 types of fats:
- Saturated fats
- Unsaturated fats (further broken down into monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats)
- Trans fats
For optimum health, you need to consume both saturated and unsaturated fats.
Yes that’s right, saturated fats, the fats labeled as “bad fats”, should NOT be avoided. They play an important role in helping to stabilize cells and for proper nervous system functioning. Also, because they are very stable fats, they are not easily destroyed from exposure to heat and light which would result in the release of body harming free radicals like the more delicate polyunsaturated fats do. Therefore they are safe for high heat cooking. Saturated fats should make up around 10% of your total daily calories. You can find saturated fats in animal products like meat, chicken, eggs and dairy as well as in non-animal sources such as pure chocolate, coconut oil and palm kernel oil. I’m personally a big fan of coconut oil. It actually helps your body burn fat. I plan to share with you one of my favorite healthy breakfast recipes which incorporates coconut oil in one of my future posts. So I suggest you stay tuned.
Unsaturated fats, which can be further categorized into 2 types – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are also necessary for good health. These fats have been labeled as the “good” fats because they help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. In addition, they help to keep our cells flexible and reduce inflammation in our bodies. They should make up around 20% of your total daily calories. Monounsaturated fats can be found in olive oil, avocado, and canola oil, while polyunsaturated fats can be found in fish, grape seed oil, peanut butter, walnuts and flaxseeds. The popular omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are types of polyunsaturated fats.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are called essential fats because our bodies cannot make them and they must be obtained from our diet. It is therefore important to ensure you are getting an adequate intake of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids. However you want to be careful that you aren’t consuming too much omega-6 because excess omega-6 causes inflammation in the body leading to negative health consequences.
The proper proportion of omega-3 to omega-6 ranges from 2:1 to 4:1. Since omega-6 is found in a lot of common foods, such as eggs, meat, and vegetable oils, it is easily obtained in our diet and as a result, over consumed in our society. When over consumed in proportion to omega-3 fats, these otherwise essential good fats can undermine our health.
Omega-3, on the other hand, is generally under consumed yet is a very important fatty acid and is especially important for athletic performance. It reduces inflammation, improves delivery of oxygen and nutrients to cells, and improves the release of growth hormone in response to exercise and recovery. Omega-3 is found in fish, the best sources being the oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna. Omega-3 fats are also found in other sources such as walnuts and flaxseeds.
Although consuming fat is good for you, there is one type of fat that you want to avoid and this is what is referred to as trans fat.
Trans fat is produced from a process called hydrogenation in which liquid unsaturated fats, like vegetable oils, are turned into solid unsaturated fats to give them more stability and increase a product’s shelf life. In the process of creating these more stable fats, we have created a version of trans fat not found in nature. It accumulates in our body and disrupts cellular function. It is these fatty acids that are responsible for raising bad cholesterol levels. Unnaturally occurring trans fatty acids can be found in processed, packaged foods. Be sure to check the label and avoid any products that have ingredients that are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.
The total amount of fat you should consume as a proportion of your diet really depends on your goals and whether you are on a weight gain plan or shredding fat. As a general rule of thumb, you should consume at least 20-30% of your total calories from fat (you’ll need to adjust the proportions of each type of fat accordingly). If you are trying to gain, then consume on the higher end of the range and if you’re shredding, consume on the lower end of the range. Choose fats that are minimally processed, meaning they are as close to their whole natural form as possible (e.g. eating nuts is better than eating nut oil which has been processed) and avoid heating polyunsaturated fats as they are very delicate and susceptible to damage at high heat or with improper storage. Therefore, polyunsaturated fats are not the best option for cooking and should be stored in the refrigerator in an opaque container to protect against light damage.
So what’s the bottom line? Consuming fats is essential for maintaining a healthy, Mirror Friendly body. So don’t fear the fat! Just remember to consume the right kinds of fat, avoid body harming trans fat, and maintain appropriate portion control based on your fitness goals.
To fitness with love,