Dietary fat is a hot topic full of conflicting information and controversy. What kinds of fat should I eat? How much fat? Will I get enough fat during my reboot? Here is a brief breakdown of the most important facts you need to know.
Why are fats important to eat?
Including healthy fats in the diet is important for many reasons. Here are just a few key points:
- Absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and phytonutrients, like antioxidants Vitamin E and carotenes, Vitamin D and Vitamin K.
- Essential fats omega-3 and omega-6, which we need to eat (our bodies can't create these vital nutrients from other foods). The typical Western diet is full of omega-6 fats, but omega-3s are less prevalent but very important for anti-inflammatory actions, healthy brain function and development and reduced risk for heart disease and preservation of muscle mass during cancer treatment, just to name a few. Omega-3 fats are found in fish like salmon and sardines and plants like walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and flax oil.
Does eating fat make you fat?
The short answer is no -- wow! BUT the best answer is a bit longer. No, as long as you consume healthy fats in moderation. Fats contain more calories per gram (9) compared to carbohydrates and protein (4) or alcohol (7). A study from Brigham & Women's hospital found placed 101 overweight men and women into three groups consuming the same number of calories:
- Group One was the control group and didn't make any changes to their diet.?- Group Two ate a moderate fat diet from healthy foods, making up 35 percent of total calories.?- Group Three ate a low fat diet, making up 20 percent of total calories.
Which group do you think lost the most weight? If you guessed group two, you are correct! The moderate fat group lost six pounds, the control group stayed the same and the low fat group actually gained six pounds. Since the calories were the same, another group of macronutrients needed to increase for the low fat group. To compensate for the decrease in calories from fat, they increased their intake of carbohydrate-rich foods. This could have been why they gained weight; perhaps if they had eaten more vegetables or protein-rich foods instead it would have led to different results. But the message of the study is that including some healthy fat may actually be helpful for maintaining a healthy weight. The general guidelines are to consume 20-30 percent of total calories from fats.