How often do you eat salmon, tuna, or avocado? What about olive oil? If you're like most dieters, you probably avoid these foods because of their high fat content. Big mistake! Not all fats are created equal. Oily fish, unrefined vegetable oils, coconut oil, and other whole foods contain omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, which support optimum health. A diet that's too low in fat can put you at risk for chronic diseases and inflammation.
Are Dietary Fats Really Important?
Lipids and dietary fats provide your body with energy. During exercise or intense physical activity, your body uses carbs in the form of glycogen for fuel. When your glycogen stores run low, it switches to fats for energy. If fats are not available, it will use protein to maintain energy balance. This can lead to muscle loss, fatigue, ands other health issues. Adequate fat intake helps spare protein and maintains muscle mass.
Every cell in your body needs fat to function properly. This nutrient promotes healthy skin and hair, fights inflammation, and helps maintain body temperature. Some fats delay the aging process and support cell regeneration. Others play a key role in brain function and blood clotting.
The human body can not produce linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids (ALA). For this reason, these essential fatty acids must be obtained from food or supplements. Other important fats are DHA, EPA, lauric acid, stearic acid, and myristic acid. Unsaturated fatty acids, which include trans and cis fats, have undergone partial hydrogenation, a hardening process that affects their nutritional value. These fats increase your risk of heart disease, obesity, stroke, high cholesterol, and metabolic disorders.
Types of Fats
A balanced diet should include large amounts of monounsaturated fats, moderate amounts of polyunsaturated fats, and small amounts of saturated fat. Trans fats should be limited or avoided completely, while saturated fats should be kept to less than six percent of the daily calorie intake. Omega-3s, omega-6, and other healthy fats enhance vitamin absorption, help transport nutrients across cell membranes, support the nervous system, and aid in the production of testosterone and other hormones. Some nutrients, such as vitamin A, D, E, and K can not be absorbed and processed by your body unless in the presence of fat.
The best dietary sources of monounsaturated fats include olive oil, sesame oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, peanut butter, sardines, mackerel, tuna, and fish oil. These nutrients reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, and protect against stroke and heart disease. They also help your body produce steroid hormones, maintain healthy skin, and regulate insulin response and blood glucose levels.
Polyunsaturated fats are found in flax seeds and vegetable oils, such as soy, corn, and sunflower oil. Just like monounsaturated fats, they help improve your blood profile and boost cardiovascular health. Saturated fats, which occur naturally in meat and dairy, help build strong bones and support the production of testosterone and other anabolic hormones that are crucial for muscle growth. They also aid in the absorption of calcium into the skeletal system. Trans fats, which are found in processed foods and refined oils, lower good cholesterol, increase bad cholesterol, and cause weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes. Trans fats should be avoided or greatly minimized as they contribute no nutritional value to your pursuit of health and wellness. If you need help in finding the perfect balance of macro nutrients and food choices that work best for your body and wellness goals contact us we would love to join you on your journey.