No matter what your fitness goals are, fats should still be incorporated into your diet. Fats provide us with essential fatty acids, keep our skin soft, facilitate in the delivery of fat-soluble vitamins and is a great source of fuel for our workouts. However, there is a difference between fats much like how omega-3 fatty acids encourage heart health but bad fats can clog the arteries.
It is an unfair assumption that fats are a huge contributor to obesity. Weight gain is due to eating more calories which includes fats, carbohydrates, protein and alcohol, than you can burn. Thus, individuals who lead a sedentary lifestyle while eating a diet high in calories is more than likely to gain weight.
Here’re some facts about fats that you should know in order to plan your diet properly.
- Fats have 9 calories per gram compared to carbohydrates and protein which has 4 calories per gram, and alcohol has 7 calories per gram. This is why fats are a great source of energy for our bodies.
- In addition to increasing our clothing size, having too much fat in our diet can increase the rates of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer.
- Keep in mind that although there are good fats that can help lower your risk of heart disease, all fats have around the same number of calories.
- For those who are overweight, it’s best to decrease the total amount of fats in your diet to help with weight loss which can also lower your risk of cancer.
Good fats equals unsaturated fats which include polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats, when eaten in moderation, can help to lower your cholesterol levels and also risk of heart disease.
Polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable oils help to lower blood cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels. Omega-3 fatty acid is a type of polyunsaturated fat and can be found in fatty fish like salmon, trout, catfish and mackerel. For vegetarians or vegans, it can be found in flaxseed and walnuts.
Monounsaturated fats are heavily consumed in the form of olive oil in Mediterranean countries and these fats are why heart disease levels are low in those countries.
Monounsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature but become solid when refrigerated. These fats are a great source of vitamin E, an antioxidant which slows down processes that damage our cells. Sources of monounsaturated fats are olives, avocadoes, hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, canola and peanut oils.
Saturated and trans fatty acids should be eaten sparingly because both can increase cholesterol levels, clog arteries and increase your risk of heart disease.
Saturated fats are found in animal products like meat, poultry skin, high fat dairy and eggs in addition to vegetable fats that are liquid at room temperature like coconut and palm oils.
It is best to limit your intake of saturated fats to 10 percent or less of your total calories.
Natural trans fatty acids found in small amounts in dairy and meats aren’t too bad especially if it’s lean meat and low-fat dairy products. Artificial trans fatty acids are a cause for concern because it’s found in a lot of our food such as fried and baked goods, cookies, processed food and some margarines.
Artificial trans fatty acids increases the LDL (bad) cholesterol and decreases HDL (good) cholesterol. It’s best to keep your trans fatty acids intake as low as possible and this also includes naturally occurring trans fat.