This post may scare a lot of you as it's going to try and challenge you to think differently about fats and what you think you know about them!
There's just 1 type of fat isn't there? Bad?!
Well no actually, there's lots that are good for you! Let's start with what types of fat there actually are in our bodies:
- Essential Fat - which is used by our body as tissue structure
- Sex-specific Fat - which is used for hormonal function
- Storage Fat - which is used for energy
More than you expected? 🙂
I shouldn't have any body fat should I?
Wrong again! We all need body fat to help our bodies work so let's take a look at the recommended ranges for body fat for both men and women. For men, it's 13-18% and women it's 18-25%! That should be the percentage of your overall body weight that is body fat....interesting huh?
It won't cause me problems to have very low body fat levels though will it?
Well, what if I told you that low body fat levels have been associated to hormonal imbalances, infertility, higher risk of osteoporosis for women as well as missing fat-soluble vitamins.
Now I'm not telling you that it's fine to go out and eat all the naughty, sweet, fatty or fried fast foods you want you want even though it's dripping with fat but it is very important to be clear about what types of fats we are talking about, what they are needed for, which ones are essential, where and how we get them.
Two specific fats are essential for our bodies, these are Linolenic acid (Omega 3) and Linoleic acid (Omega 6). These two fats are part of all of our cell membranes, brain tissue, nerve sheaths, bone marrow and help to cushion our organs. But, did you also know that our bodies cannot produce them. Nope, not at all. So we HAVE to consume them. Not only that but some vitamins such as vitamins A, D and E are fat soluble which means if you don't eat fat then you cannot absorb or use the fat-soluble vitamins!!
How much fat should I have a day?
The UK government recommend that no more than 35% of your daily calorie intake should be from fats. You should have already done your calorie calculations from one of the previous posts so you should be able to calculate that figure. In addition, The American College of Sports and Medicine the American Dietetic Association both recommend an intake of 20-35% of fat per daily calorie intake for active people and athletes.
I exercise regularly, is there anything that can specifically help me?
Omega 3 is the answer to that. For athletes or very active people the benefits of Omega 3 are very wide ranging. Why? They help to deliver more oxygen to your muscles, reduce inflammation and stiffness and can even help endurance and speed up your recovery time. It helps with dry skin conditions such as eczema, dandruff or Psoriasis. Improves sleep, helps with attention deficit or hyperactivity. The list really is a long one!
What are the bad fats?
Let's be clear here. I am not saying that ALL fats are good for you at all, some are very bad for you. They can increase your cholesterol, cause heart disease, increase the chances of type 2 diabetes, just to name a few issues they can cause.
The worst is by far TRANS FATS. These are found in all of the below:
- Fried Foods
- Fast Foods
- Snacks such as crisps, cookies, biscuits etc
- Quite a few pastries
So all the things you know you shouldn't be eating anyway! ha!
What are the good fats?
The two UNSATURATED FATS are the good ones: MONOUNSATURATED and POLYUNSATURATED.
Monounsaturated fats have been found to help lower your bad cholesterol levels and promote a strong and healthy heart which reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke
Polyunsaturated fats are your Omega-3 and Omega-6, which contains GLA (we've already covered some of the good bits of these!)
Where do I find the good fats?
That list is probably one you know of already. They are usually allocated as 'high in calories' for a lot of the crash diets that do your body so much harm. Even just talking to people about fats it's amazing how many people reply with 'but that's got lots of calories in it and lots of fats'. It's true, some do, but that doesn't mean they are not GOOD fats and GOOD calories. Eating 500 calories worth of McDonalds takeaway is going to have a very different affect on your body than eating 500 calories worth of a mixed nuts bag. Here's a few examples of foods with good fats:
- Almonds, Walnuts, Hazelnuts, Macademia nuts (most nuts in general)
- Vegetable oils
- Salmon, Sardines and lots of other oily fish
There is a 'grey' fat?
The grey fat, as I call it, is when which sits between both good and bad. SATURATED fats are not necessarily bad however, they can have a negative effect on your body, especially if you are not very active or have a medical condition that can be aggravated by saturated fats. The key here is to limit the amount of saturated fats you consume while becoming more active. The Department of Health recommends a maximum of 11% of your daily calorie intake is from saturated fats. If you think that earlier we said they recommend up to 35% from fats, that leaves almost 20% of the recommendation should be from UNsaturated fats. So where do we find saturated fats, here's a small list:
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, cream)
- Red meats (pork, beef, lamb)
- Skin from poultry (chicken, turkey)
In summary, fats are way more complicated than you probably expected or knew about and yet if you know the right types of fats and how to eat them it can have huge benefits for your body.
So today, instead of that snack of saturated fats in your crisps or biscuits, why not reach for some nuts, a mashed avocado on some wholegrain bread or a lovely salmon filled salad?
Have fun learning
Ciao for now x