Fat has had a bad connotation associated with it over the past 50 years. Society has hopped onto trends of low- fat dieting and coining fat-free products whenever possible. The truth is, we need fat in our body. Fat is a valuable source of energy. It is one of the three macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs). They are mainly composed of triglycerides and smaller amounts of sterols and phospholipids. Fats provide essential fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble phytochemicals for the body.
Chapter 1- A Day in the Life
20-35% of the body’s daily needs should come from dietary fat intakes. Variables which impact your need include: your age, gender and physical activity levels. In a 2000-calorie diet, this accounts for about 44-78 grams of fat. We get 9 calories per gram of fat making it the most energy dense of the three macronutrients.
Chapter 2- Sources of Healthy Fat
Good sources of healthy fat include nuts, seeds, fish, oils and avocados. To get a better picture: half an avocado is 6 grams of fat, which is just below one full serving. In a teaspoon of olive oil, there is 4.5 grams of fat.
Chapter 3- Cholesterol
Cholesterol is used to make hormones and Vitamin D, consuming too much cholesterol can increase the cholesterol level in the blood. In turn, can increase your risk for cardiovascular diseases. It is found in many animal foods such as eggs, shrimp, poultry and liver. It is difficult to omit from the diet without omitting other nutritious foods and nutrients. There is no current recommendation for cholesterol intake because it is not essential and your body can produce naturally what it needs. However, having foods with cholesterol in moderation is not a bad thing, eat your eggs and shrimp!
Chapter 4- Trans-fat
There are very few foods which contain natural trans fats. Trans- fatty acids are widely produced through food industrial processes. Trans fat should be limited or not consumed at all! Essentially, when people refer to “bad” fats, these are the ones.
Chapter 5- The “Omegas”
Polyunsaturated fats are broken down into three main groups of Omegas, Omega-3 Omega-6 and Omega-9. Dietary recommendations include eating two servings of fish twice, per week. Omega-6 is high in vegetable oils such as soybean and corn oils. When choosing Omega sources try to avoid deep fried fish, which potentially adds saturated and trans fats. Omega-3 eggs, walnuts, flax and soy are also a good choice if you do not eat fish.
Chapter 6- Low-fat Diets
Low fat diets are difficult to maintain and are not necessarily low calorie, often replaced with sugar. Removing a whole macronutrient will result in a deficiency in essential fatty acids, which are necessary for the body to function.
Chapter 7- Oils
Vegetable oils are a great way to add in fat in your diet. Oils that are good for cooking include extra-virgin olive oil, canola and avocado are the top three.
Chapter 9- Where to find fat?
Fats can be relatively visible in our favourite foods. Mainly, people see fat on the outside of meat. This type of fat should be trimmed off when possible. Yet, invisible fats are hidden, hence harder to determine. They can be both naturally occurring and added in the food manufacturing process. Examples of invisible fat sources are: in ground meats, nuts, olives, coconuts, avocado, cheese, and baked goods.
Chapter 10- Nutrition Label
Fat must be listed on a Nutrition Facts Label found on processed foods. It has two declarations under the term fat, saturated and trans fat. Try and keep these numbers, issued in grams, as low as possible. Ideally, trans fat below 2% to none and saturated fat limited to less than 10% of your daily value.
Fat is one of three macronutrients our body needs, similar to how our body needs water. It is an energy dense macronutrient. Even the healthier sources of fat can cause weight gain if we consume too much. Remember that there is a large spectrum of sources of fats out there, and their quality ranges. Choosing the right sources can help improve your health. Limit your intake of saturated and trans fats. Choose foods rich in omega 3 and unsaturated fats. Look at the nutrition facts table, and cook homemade foods to ensure you know exactly what you are putting in your baked goods and salads, toast, potatoes and sauces.