Healthy fats explained
Many people view “fats” as unhealthy and best avoided. They link them to high levels of cholesterol, clogged arteries and major health problems. However, in reality healthy fats are essential for overall health and nutrition, provided you eat the right fats in the right amounts.
Healthy fats in the body
If you were to cut fat completely from your diet there would be less fiber in your bloodstream, and therefore a slower absorption of carbohydrates and glucose into your bloodstream. This would trigger an increase in insulin (the hormone that regulates glucose in your blood) and cause a blood sugar crash. Symptoms of a blood sugar crash may include irritability, lack of energy, dizziness, blurred vision, depression and headaches. High insulin levels promote the storage of fat in the body and also increase the risk of diabetes. Healthy fats slow down the release of carbs into the bloodstream, helping to regulate blood sugar levels. Keeping your blood sugar regulated is essential for fat loss and general health. The right path to a lean and fit physique is a diet with lean protein, healthy carbs and healthy, unprocessed fats.
Eating healthy fats also helps to control cravings and hunger, making a caloric deficit easy to follow and stick to in the long run. Healthy fats increase testosterone levels in the body, which is essential for maintaining and building lean muscle mass.
Essential fatty acids
Essential fatty acids are found in fats and are made up of amino acid chains (the smallest units of protein), which the body is unable to produce and which must therefore be ingested through our food. There are two types of essential fatty acids, known as Omega 3 and Omega 6. Eating lots of essential fatty acids builds stronger joints, fuels us with energy, decreases the production of cortisol and improves insulin sensitivity.
Trans fatty acids
These fatty acids are processed and are made up of chemically altered fats that are extremely unhealthy and high in calories. These fats should be avoided at much as possible and only eaten as cheat meals. Some examples include biscuits, cakes, pastries, doughnuts, margarine, croutons (the ones found in salads or soups - always have it without croutons!), pies, refined (processed) vegetable oils, cookies, tacos and similar food. Overconsumption can eventually lead to heart disease and increase the risk of cancer. The best way to identify foods containing trans fatty acids on nutrition labels is to steer clear of anything containing “hydrogenated oils”.
Types of fat
Saturated fats are comprised of animal and vegetable fats that lack essential fatty acids. This includes the fat in meat, dairy, egg yolks, chocolate, butter, coconut or palm oil. These fats can increase cholesterol levels in the blood and should be eaten in moderation.
Unsaturated fats are comprised of fats found in plant sources. Some examples include nuts, avocado, olive oil and fish oil. These are low in cholesterol and contain essential fatty acids, which help the body with biological functions. They can be categorized into polyunsatured or monounsatured fats (fats with single or double hydrogen bonds).
Fat loss guru Tom Venuto, in his program Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle, recommends an overall fat intake of 15-20% of total calories. In order to calculate how many grams of fat you should be eating, divide this number by nine (there are nine calories in each gram of fat). Here’s an example:
You’re eating 1800 calories a day for fat loss. If 20% of your total calories are from healthy fats, then you’ll eat a total of 360 calories of fat (1800 x 0.20) and 40 grams of fat (360/9).
Similarly, if you were eating 2000 calories for maintenance or 3500 calories to gain muscle size, let your total fat intake be equivalent to 20%.
Your overall caloric intake may change depending on your goals. If you’re looking to bulk up you’ll be in a surplus, if you want to become leaner you’ll be in a deficit, and finally, if you want to maintain your weight, you’ll eat in accordance with your daily expenditure. However, regardless of your goals, always aim for your fat intake to make up between 15-20% of your calories. If you’re carb intolerant or are following a low carb diet then you can increase your fat intake to 25-30% of total calories.
Reading nutrition labels and determining calories from fat
In order to calculate the total number of calories from fat on nutrition labels, multiply the number of grams in fat by nine (there are nine calories of fat in every gram).
Here’s an example: a nutrition label reads 25 grams of protein, 15 grams of carbs and 6 grams of fat.
In order to calculate the calories of fat in this product, multiply 6 x 9 (nine calories of fat in every gram) = 54 calories from fat.
Fat free products elaborated
Nowadays, whenever you drive down the highway or walk down a supermarket aisle, you see “fat-free” products everywhere. Many people believe these products are low in calories and safe to eat, however, you might not be aware that the fat has simply been replaced with sugar. Fat-free does not mean sugar free, or that the product is low in calories. Always read nutrition labels and see how many grams of sugar are listed on fat-free products.
Click here to learn more about what types of fats you should be eating on a daily basis.,