This post is intended to simplify the confusion around dietary fat. Should you eat it? How much? What types? Where do I get it? Without going into scientific explanations I will break it down for you.
First of all yes, you should absolutely be eating fat and here are some reasons why.
- It provide energy.
- You need it create and balance hormones.
- It helps form cell membranes.
- Your brain and nervous system need it to work properly.
- It transports fat soluble vitamins A,D,K, and E.
- It tastes delicious.
So, essentially your mind and body will not work well without it and you will likely feel nutritionally dis-satisfied without it. Word of caution and likely one of the reasons fat has gotten a bad rap: it has 9 calories per gram vs 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates and protein. So, you cannot have very much. I recommend a thumb size amount at all meals.
Another question surrounding fat is what type of fat should I eat? We have all heard that saturated fat is "BAD". This is somewhat misguided. As, it seems that diets highest in saturated fats are also high in sugar and processed carbohydrates and low in unsaturated fats. The list below will show you some healthy and not so healthy sources of saturated fats. Consider which ones you eat most of? Are they healthy sources or the sugary and processed variety?
The next category is unsaturated fats this includes Polyunsaturated (including omega 3) and Monounsaturated fats (including Omega 6). The ratio of these two categories is very important as our Western diet is often highly disproportionate in Omega 6/Omega 3. Think 16:1 or 20:1 and really it should be 1:1. The list below shows sources of each and you will quickly see why the ratio is so out of whack.
The last group of fats we hear a lot about are trans fat. These are basically unsaturated fats that have hydrogen added to harden it. This processing gives these fats a longer shelf life and a nice flavor. However, because the chemical structure changes when forming these fats our body cannot utilize these fats the same as other less processed fats and research has shown these fats increase coronary artery disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions.
So, to summarize you should consume an equal balance of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats and avoid processed trans fats. These should NOT come from processed foods that also contain a lot of sugar. BUT yes, please eat some fat!!