So far we’ve talked about two of the three macronutrients – protein and carbohydrates. Now it’s time to address the last macro – FATS! Let’s talk about why they are not only not bad for you in moderation, they are actually necessary for a healthy functioning body.
Why Do We Need Fats?
At their core, fats are essential to health and survival. Humans can’t live without fats. We need them for cellular health, brain function, recovery, and energy.
Fats are the primary energy source that fuel everyday living and breathing. As you’re sitting down to read this blog, your body is using fat to fuel all of the necessary processes to keep you alive. The same goes for when you’re walking or doing any activity that doesn’t greatly increase your heart rate. Being that a good deal of our daily activities are done at a low heart rate, it’s obvious that fats are pretty important in helping us stay alive.
All In Moderation
Just because you need fats to survive, though, doesn’t mean that you should go dunking a stick of butter in your morning coffee, despite what you might have seen someone do or say on the internet. Fats tend to be the culprit that undo most diets because they are the highest in energy (calories) and the least satiating of the three macronutrients, making them the easiest to overeat. Here’s a general breakdown of the macros to give you an idea of how to prioritize each of them:
- Protein: 4 calories per gram and the most satiating.
- Carbs: 4 calories per gram and a little less satiating, and even this varies depending on the source. Veggies are definitely more filling than sugar, for example.
- Fat: 9 calories per gram and the least satiating.
You can see why it is so easy to consume fats in excess and go over your daily caloric allotment. While that doesn’t mean that we should swing to the other extreme and eat extremely low fat, it does mean that we need to be aware and purposeful with how much fat we eat. Additionally, when you eat more calories than your body requires, that excess dietary fat will be converted into body fat. The body does this because it is the easiest way for it to manage the excess nutrients, and it will always choose the most efficient option available.
Types of Fats
When it comes to dietary fats, quality is more important than any of the other macronutrients. The big low-fat craze in the 80’s and 90’s were a result of scientists recognizing that different types of fats were playing a major role in the health of our arteries, brains, and hearts.
Monounsaturated fats are considered the healthiest form of dietary fat and can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood which can lower risk of heart disease and stroke. They also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain the body’s cells. Examples of monounsaturated fats are olive oil, whole fat dairy, avocados, nuts, and fish oil.
Saturated fats are another type of dietary fat and include items like butter and fats from most animal protein. While saturated fats are not as healthy as monounsaturated fats, you can still enjoy eating them within moderation.
The one type of dietary fat we should try to eat minimally is trans fat. Trans fats are made in a lab and are blasted with extra hydrogen molecules so they will stay hard at room temperature. It is these fats that are the biggest concern when it comes to heart health. That doesn’t mean that eating some trans fats (typically the fats used in junk food and processed food) is going to give you heart disease. It just means we need to eat them sparingly.
So, there you have it! All you need to know about fats and why they’re important. The big takeaway from these macronutrient blogs is moderation and learning to recognize food as fuel. Are you ready to really dig into your nutrition habits and tighten up your diet? Check out our Nutrition Program. With a personalized nutrition plan, ongoing coaching support, and all kinds of tips, recipes, and ideas, you’re sure to get the results you’re looking for!
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