Good Fats, Bad Fats
Mainstream diets and media often create a ominous, threatening tale of fats and how “terrible” they are for our health and wellness. It is true that fats are more caloric than carbohydrates or protein (9 calories per gram of fat compared to 4 calories per gram of carb or protein) but, when it comes to health impact, not all fats are created equal. Fats and oils play a necessary roll in countless bodily functions key to our health and happiness. As such, it is important to understand the differences between different types of fats and how we can plan our diet to optimize fat intake. Fats are often categorized based on their chemical structure, or saturation. Trans Fats are Saturated Fats are associated with negative health effects. On the other hand, mono- and poly-unsaturated fats are associated with health benefits, such as decreased heart disease, stroke, and cancer risk. Proper consumption of healthy, unsaturated fats can actually help with weight loss!
How Much is Too Much?
Depending on your activity level and goals, between 20 to 35 percent of your total calories every day should come from fat. This means for someone on an average 2,000 calorie per day diet, between 400 and 700 calories can come from fat (45-75 grams, roughly). Due to their high calorie content, too much dietary fat can lead to weight gain, so we need to be conscious and careful to consume the right levels of healthy fats every day.
Some of the most popular and commercialized healthy fats are Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3’s are anti-inflammatory, associated with decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and are often lacking in most people’s diets. Omega-6’s are often over-consumed and, in high doses, increase inflammation. Ideally, one’s diet should consist of a 4:1 Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio or less to maximize benefits and minimize inflammation. These supplements can help boost Omega-3 levels:
Fish OIl - Most popular, contain high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids
Flax Seed Oil - Plant based, lacks full-spectrum Omega-3’s
Krill Oil - Similar to fish oils, slightly different Omega-3 ratios
Fueling With Fat
Fitting healthy fat into your diet is not only easy, but usually tastes great too. Common sources of healthy fats include avocados, salmon, olive oil, peanut butter, and flax seeds.
Avocado: High elvels of monounsaturated fat, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and potassium
Olive Oil: Mono-unsaturated fat associated with decreased Heart Disease Risk
Peanut Butter: All-natural nut butters offer a good source of healthy mono-unsaturated fat
Flax seeds: High in Omega-3 fatty acids that boost heart health and decrease cancer risk
Salmon: High in Omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Wild caught is generally better than farm-raised