Hello everybody! Welcome back to my blog. The purpose of this blog is to help people find their way to a healthier lifestyle. I mostly talk about exercise, nutrition and the science behind them, which are my areas of expertise, but I also talk about sleeping habits, minimalism and many other subjects related to wellbeing and healthy lifestyle.
How much do you know about fats? What are fats, what are they for, which are the types, how much fat we need in our diet, and the most researched question: are fats that bad? Today I want to answer some of these common questions about fats.
WHAT ARE FATS
To start with, it’s important to differentiate between body fat and dietary fats. Body fat is the amount of fat that our body carries and it might not come from a source of fat. The perfect body fat percentage does not exist and it will depend on your gender, age, physical activity levels, and even taking all those into consideration, different fat percentages can be as healthy as someone else’s with the same characteristics.
The fats this post is about is the second type. Dietary fat is one of the macronutrients alongside with carbohydrates and protein. As well as the other macronutrients, fats are made of Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen. Protein has Nitrogen in its composition as well. The two components of the fats are glycerol (triglycerides) and fatty acids. Fatty acids are the simpler form of fats. Our body breaks the fats down into fatty acids and separates the glycerol, which is a naturally existing alcohol that absorbs water in the intestines making stools softer and easier to pass through.
WHAT ARE FATS FOR
Even though we are obsessed with losing fat, there is a percentage of fat that is necessary for survival and to ensure body functions. Some of the functions of fats are:
- Production (thanks to cholesterol) and transport of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- Production and transport of hormones, including sex hormones (testosterone, progesterone).
- Energy provision.
- Essential for nerve function.
- Outer structure of cells formation.
- Ensure healthy hair, nails, and skin.
- Improve brain function and development.
- Reducing inflammation (thanks to the healthy fats).
- Improve cardiovascular health.
- Reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.
- Assist with weight loss increasing satiation.
- Maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
A lack of fat may lead to imbalances in hormones, lack of vitamins, skin problems, increased hunger, among others. The lack of fat-soluble vitamins may lead to bigger issues, such as weak and brittle bones (due to a lack of vitamins D), night blindness (due to a lack of vitamin A) or inability of blood to clot effectively (due to a lack of vitamin K).
TYPES OF FATS AND SOURCES
The following classification of fats are from the healthiest and essential to the most unhealthy and therefore, it’s recommended not to consume in excess.
- Polyunsaturated fats: Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
These are called essential fatty acids because they don’t occur naturally in our body, we must intake them with our diet. Some of the functions of these fats and the reason why we must ensure their intake in our diet are improving inflammation, reducing blood pressure, assisting people who suffer form type II diabetes, assisting with body weight loss and maintenance, among others.
On my previous post about inflammation I talk deeper about this subject. Check it out!
These fats are the healthiest and the ones that should make up most of our daily fats intake. Although the main source of Omega-3 comes from oily fish some other sources include walnuts, olive oil, garlic, avocados, whole eggs, and some of the sources of Omega-6 are nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, dairy products, and other unhealthy sources such as deep fried foods and commercially baked products. For this reason, a good intake of Omega-3 rich foods is important to ensure the benefits of this type of fats. Many sources recommend to consume a ratio of somewhere between 4:1 to 1:1 of Omega 6 to Omega 3. This can get done by increasing the amount of Omega-3 in our diet.
- Monounsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats are, like Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, unsaturated fats. Therefore, their benefits to our health are similar to the previous ones. Some sources of monounsaturated fats are avocados, peanuts as well as many other types of nuts, olives, pumpkin seeds, among others.
- Saturated fats.
Saturated fats may come from healthy resources, such as eggs or dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese), and they can safely be consumed in the diet. When they come from these sources, saturated fats may have a good impact in our health. They increase both HDL or healthy cholesterol and LDL or bad cholesterol, making the ratio between them both balanced and avoiding cardiovascular disease. Some of the healthy sources of saturated fats also have probiotics that improve our gut bacteria.
However, saturated fats can be found in processed foods such as processed meats, junk food, biscuits, cakes, etcetera, and therefore they should be reduced or completely avoided. The recommendation is to not exceed 10% of total daily energy requirements coming from saturated fats.
- Trans fats.
Trans fats may come from two sources: naturally from certain animals like cows, or manmade through industrial processes. The most common resource of trans fats in our diets are processed meats, processed baked foods, and deep fried foods. Even though trans fats are a type of saturated fats, they cannot be considered healthy and it’s better to avoid it or reduce the daily intake to a minimum. Trans fats increase LDL or bad cholesterol, reduce HDL or good cholesterol, they mainly come from unnatural sources, and for those reasons, the WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends to limit their intake to less than 1% of the total daily energy intake.
HOW MUCH FAT DO WE NEED
The amount of fats needed, as well as the amount of protein and carbohydrates, is individual. It depends on many factors such as age, gender, amount of physical activity, specific goals, etcetera. On average, an adult needs between 20% and 35% of total calories from fats. If you want to know how much exactly you need to intake from every macronutrient, I strongly recommend you to see a Nutrition Advisor or Dietitian.
As you can see, fats are not only essential for survival and correct body functions, but they are also a healthy macronutrient to ensure in our diets. Many of the healthiest foods have dietary fats and most sources of protein include a percentage of fats.
That’s it for today! I really hope that you enjoy it. If you like what I do and you want to support this project, follow me on Instagram and Facebook, like the post and comment! Should you have feedback you’d like to leave, a comment to share with me, or a cool idea for a post, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org