Fat is one of three macronutrients alongside protein and carbohydrates. Fat is consumed in the form of triglycerides (made up of three fatty acids attached to a glycerol backbone), these fatty acids contain chains of carbons and hydrogens.
Fat performs a number of functions and provides health benefits, energy source being one; it provides 9 kcals per gram, whereas protein and carbohydrate only provide 4kcal per gram. Fats regulate the production of reproductive and steroid hormones. Adequate consumption can improve brain and cognition. Also, adding fats to meals make you fuller for longer.
Most sources recommend getting at least 20–30 percent of total calories from fat, although this amount can vary quite a bit. The majority of your fat intake should be from unsaturated fats, such as nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil. World Health Organization currently recommend limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of daily calories. Stick to healthy sources of saturated fat such as grass-fed beef, coconut oil and MCT oil rather than fried foods or processed meats that are laden with additives and harmful ingredients.
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) have one double bond in their carbon chains. It is an excellent plant-based source of fat in a healthy diet. One of the common MUFA is oleic acid, found in olive oil. Monounsaturated fat has many health benefits, including a reduced risk of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Studies found diets in MUFA lead to lower blood sugar, triglycerides, weight and blood pressure, compared to high-carb diets. Also, MUFAalso increases the feeling of fullness that leads to reduced calorie intake.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) contain two or more double bonds; they are divided into two groups, omega-3 and omega-6. Scientific data suggests that long-chain omega-3 fats have benefits for inflammation, heart disease and diabetes. Food sources of omega-6s are safflower, corn, sunflower, and soybean oils, margarine and even fast foods (which are sometimes cooked with these oils). An excess in omega-6 fats can be inflammatory, and omega-3 fats should be consumed. Omega-3 is found in fatty salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds, as well as tuna, tofu, herring, and sardines. It’s been shown to help reduce inflammation and heart disease risk, boost memory and brain function.
Saturated fatty acids (SFAs) have no double bonds in their carbon chain. SFA intake can raise bad cholesterol levels and are found in foods like fatty cuts of meat, butter, full-fat dairy, cheese, baked goods, and fried and processed foods. Some foods high in saturated fat may benefit metabolic health; one study found that the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil may boost metabolic rate and reduce calorie intake.
Trans fat is one thing that you will hear Nutritionist’s tell you to stay away from! Most trans fats in our diet are artificially created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to make them solid, producing hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils. They are often used in processed foods to increase shelf life, examples include fast food, condiments, crackers, muffins, cookies, cakes, and margarine. Consuming trans fats can lead to a number of health problems. Artificial trans fats are linked to inflammation, unhealthy cholesterol changes, insulin resistance and excess belly fat.
Below are a list of good fats and some of their benefits:
- Avocados – rich in monounsaturated fats, which raises levels of good cholesterol while lowering the bad.
- Ghee – also known as clarified butter is loaded in fat-soluble vitamins A and E. These vitamins absorbed by your body when in a high-fat substance. They are also stored in the gastrointestinal tract, maintaining metabolism.
- Coconut Oil – made of medium-chain fatty acids, beneficial as they are easy to digest and are not readily stored by the body as fat.
Also, these fatty acids improve brain function as well as memory function. Furthermore, the antioxidants in coconut oil make it an anti-inflammatory food.
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – many studies state olive oil is beneficial for heart health and has been linked to lower blood pressure, and reduces cholesterol levels.
- Fish – fatty fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines are packed with omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are considered essential fatty acids because the body cannot produce them on their own, and therefore rely solely on diet.
- Nuts and Seeds – lower bad cholesterol to keep your heart healthy. Also rich in omega-3s, for enhancing brain health.
- Eggs – an all-rounder good fat that does not raise bad cholesterol and improves heart health. Also, high consumption of eggs can reduce your risk of many conditions, including excess body fat, high blood sugar levels and abnormal cholesterol levels. A study found that adults over 40 years old who regularly ate eggs significantly reduced their risk of metabolic syndrome.
- Dark Chocolate – considered a superfood, dark chocolate is high in fat, with antioxidants that protect our bodies from free-radicals. The flavanols are known to improve heart health by reducing blood pressure. I recommend choosing chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao – this minimizes the amount of sugar and means a higher antioxidant boost.
A well-balanced diet should include a mix of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with a small number of saturated fats, from healthy sources, like ghee. Good fats are associated with health benefits and can reduce your risk of chronic diseases to protect your heart health, shield the brain, fight depression, reduce inflammation and joint pain, for optimum health and well-being.
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