Understand How Dietary Fats Can Support Your Body
There are many different view points and diets surrounding dietary fats.
Some studies say to limit your fat while others encourage you to increase your fat. In my nutrition practice fat ratios depend on the individual needs. Certain patients may need to increase or decrease their weight and body fat, while others need to work towards improving their lipid panel, or need the support of a short term Keto diet to lower glucose levels and promote weight loss.
One thing that is important across the board is to understand the main types of fat and how they support your body. Working with a nutritionist like myself can help you to hone in on the amount of fat that works best for body. In the meantime, let’s start learning!
Dietary Fats are essential to provide your body energy. They also:
- Provide a longer, slower burning source of energy for your body. Basically they keep you fuller longer
- Are the building blocks for cell membranes and hormones
- Support blood sugar and blood pressure
- Protect your organs and help keep your body warm. Without adequate fat we would be COLD!
- Assist in nutrient absorption of A, D, E, and K and the proper use of proteins
- Are natural beauty boosters and maintain healthy skin, hair and nails
A few things to note:
The terms grass-fed, free-range, and pasture raised are all used interchangeably. If you consume animal products you will want to ensure that your meat and dairy products are free-range. This helps promote heart health by increasing HDL levels and decreasing LDL levels. Also keep in mind that fat is nine calories per gram, whereas carbohydrates and protein are four calories per gram. This is why fat keeps you fuller longer.
The 4 Main Types of Dietary Fat
1.) Saturated Fat – The preferred fuel of the heart
Saturated fat is the preferred fuel of the heart, however it is important to choose heart healthy sources. Fats can either raise our LDL levels, which can increase plaque in our arteries, or raise our HDL levels and carry away the plaque from the arteries.
Unrefined coconut oil, MCT oil, free-range eggs, pasture butter, Ghee (clarified butter), and dark chocolate. With dark chocolate the higher the percentage cocoa the better. I love my dark chocolate frozen and have a square or two most nights after dinner. Yum!
Limit and/or Avoid
Refined vegetable oils, processed grain-fed meat and dairy products, fried foods
2.) Monounsaturated Fats – MUFA’S enhance weight loss
Have been shown to raise the level of HDL, the ‘good’ cholesterol that protects against heart attacks, in the blood. MUFA’s have been shown to enhance weight loss, which is a double bonus!
Extra virgin olive oil, olives, sesame oil, avocados, poultry, sesame seeds, almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans, cashews
Limit and/or Avoid
Canola oil, peanuts and peanut oils
3.) Polyunsaturated Fats – Essential Fatty Acid’s or EFA’s
EFA’s are fatty acids that cannot be made by the body and must be supplied through our diet. They can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes. EFA’s are vital for healthy skin, hair and nails. They are key structural components of cell walls that ensure the flexibility of cells, which gives our skin its smoothness and suppleness.
Preferred Sources – Omega 3 (alpha-linolenic acid) anti-inflammatory, raises HDL cholesterol
Flaxseed, walnuts, hemp, free-range eggs, green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds and deep-sea fish such as salmon, mackerel, herrings and sardines (EPA and DHA fatty acids). Here is a wonderful tuna salad recipe that you is packed with Omega 3 heart healthy fats.
Limit and/or avoid – Omega 6 (linoleic acid) – pro-flammatory, raises LDL
Sunflower, safflower, corn, soybean, primrose, and black currant oil. Often times these oils will be in found in packaged and processed foods. Be sure to read every food label.
In North America the intake ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is believed to be least 10:1, the ideal ratio is 1:3. Incorporate more Omega 3’s in to your daily diet and less Omega 6’s for optimal health.
4.) Trans Fat (AVOID AT ALL COST)
READ EVERY FOOD LABEL and avoid anything labeled hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oil.
Trans fats promote weight gain, and compromise hormone and immune function, metabolism, tissue repair, cell damage, and raises LDL. You can find trans fats in many baked and processed foods. Start looking now and remove these bad boys from your diet.
Partially Hydrogenated or Hydrogenated soy, corn, canola, and cottonseed oils
Now that you have learned the basic about dietary fats here of some of my favorite healthy fats. Enjoy!