We recently discussed carbohydrates (and since then, lots of waffles). But carbs aren’t the only “taboo” macronutrient. Fats also fall into that category depending on what diet you’re following.
The primary source of calorie (energy) storage beyond the body’s immediate need comes from your fat intake. That might sound bad, but I promise it’s not. Fats also carry vitamins through the bloodstream, contribute to the smell and flavor of foods, help you feel full, nourish your skin and hair, and for the major components of your cell membranes. Yes, you read that right… FATS ARE NECESSARY ON A CELLULAR LEVEL!
Now, that’s not an excuse to get a Chipotle bowl with double guac (although I’m not judging if you do because that sounds delicious).
Let’s get sciency really quick:
When you eat a food containing fat, the fat is broken down into small molecules of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and linked together and then called fatty acids. The most common fatty acid chain found in the body (95%) is a Triglyceride which is the major class of dietary lipids (to include fats and oils). It’s built by combining three fatty acids and one glycerol. *Disclaimer: the other types of fats are Phospholipids and Sterols.
Fats can be broken down into two categories:
- Saturated- A FULL fatty acid chain containing the maximum number of hydrogen atoms leaving no points of unsaturation.
*Saturated fats can be found in animal products (meat, poultry, full-fat dairy) and in tropical oils like palm and coconut oils.
- Unsaturated- A fatty acid chain with one or more points of unsaturation.
*Unsaturated fats can be found in both animal and plant products such as avocados, peanut
butter, and olive oil.
The difference between the two is the degree of saturation and the fatty acid chain length, but both provide 9 calories per gram.
In addition to the two categories of fats we just defined, there are also different levels of unsaturation. These are polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, omega-3 fat, and trans fat. Each of these has different effects on fat in your blood (essentially).
The fats you eat play a huge role in heart disease, so it’s best to try and eat a diet primarily consisting of “healthy” fats and treats (AKA: Trans fats) in moderation. Ideally, 20-30% of your daily calories should come from fat.
One way to meet this goal and still keep your heart happy is to swap out some of your saturated fat for poly/monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fats.
This can easily be done by swapping coconut oil for canola or olive, snack on nuts instead of chips or ice cream, using greek yogurt instead of sour cream, or add flaxseed to your baking or oatmeal.
*Side note: did anyone jump on the coconut oil bandwagon in a Paleo phase only to realize it isn’t the champ of healthy oils/fats?! Ok… maybe that was just me.
It’s easy to do once you start looking at the labels on your food.
If you have any questions or want to discuss fats, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org