It’s interesting to me that many people think dietary fat makes you fat, slow, and not heart healthy. But that’s far from the truth, especially if you focus on the right kind of fats. Healthy fats can help you get stronger, fitter, and healthier.
Fat comes in two main forms: unsaturated and saturated fat:
- Unsaturated fats are oils — the kind that is fluid at room temperature (i.e. olive and flaxseed oils).
- Saturated fats are solid at room temperature (i.e. coconut oil, stick of butter).
Both fat sources are needed in your diet. However, the majority should come from unsaturated fats. Foods that contain unsaturated fat include nuts, fish, avocados, and olives. Certain fish also contain omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated fat that benefits the brain. Foods that contain saturated fat can include meats and dairy products. (Many process foods such as chips and pastries can also contain saturated fat along with one type of fat you don’t need; trans-fat, an artificial kind of fat found in partially hydrogenated oils. These choices obviously do not fall into the “healthy” fat category). Many foods that are high in saturated fat also contain high levels of dietary cholesterol.
Approximately 25 to 35 percent of an average person’s daily caloric intake is recommended to come from fat. Out of this daily recommendation, according to the American Heart Association, only 7 percent should come from saturated fat.
Eating fat won’t necessarily make you fat. Although it does have more calories per gram than carbohydrate and protein, fat makes food more flavorful and satiating, which may mean that you don’t need as much to feel satisfied.
So, what does healthy fat do for you?
- It’s a major fuel source for your body (meaning it’s calorie dense) and the main way you store energy.
- You need fat to help you absorb certain nutrients, such as fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
- Fat is important in giving your cells structure.
- Omega-3 fats, a type of unsaturated fat, are important for optimum nerve, brain and heart function.
- And believe it or not, healthy fats can help you lose fat.
Here is a list of healthy fat sources:
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Flax seed oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Omega-3 oils such as fish or algae
- Avocado or guacamole
- Nuts such as almonds, Brazil, cashews, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, etc.
- Nut butters such as almond, cashew, etc.
- Peanuts and natural peanut butter
- Seeds such as chia, ground flax, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, etc.
Of course, other foods have some healthy fats (especially whole eggs, fish, dairy, and meats). But the foods above are the healthy-fat superstars.
If you get enough of these important fats, your hormones stay healthy, it helps your performance in the gym, you stay smart and happy, and you absorb valuable nutrients. And bonus, it helps your skin look amazing!