Did you know eating full-fat yoghurt is better for weight loss than eating low-fat yoghurt?
Dietary fats have gotten quite the bad rep and there are plenty of people and sources of information that urge us to avoid them at all costs.
But, the truth is, dietary fats are actually vital for our health. And not getting enough of them, brings a whole host of health problems down the road. Not to mention feeling grumpy and unsatisfied.
So let’s go over some things you need to know about dietary fats, and what you can do to optimally support your health, digestive system and maybe lose a few pounds along the way.
What Are Dietary Fats?
Dietary fats are organic molecules made of hydrogen and carbon elements. These individual elements are chained together in hydrocarbons.
Contrary to popular belief, we actually need adequate amounts of dietary fats because they play a massive role in our overall health, cognition, and physical abilities. Some of the functions of dietary fats include:
- Cardiovascular health
- Cell signaling
- Maintaining a healthy metabolism
- Strong immune system
- Hormone synthesis
- The absorption of vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E & K
Depending on the structure and length, fats come in different categories and have different effects within the body. They come in three categories:
- Saturated – such as animal fats & coconut oil
- Monounsaturated – avocado, nuts, olive oil…
- Polyunsaturated – omega 3 (from fish and flaxseeds) and omega 6 (seed oils such as canola and sunflower)
Typically, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered to be good or ‘healthy.’ But rather than looking at fats as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ a better classification would be ‘processed’ vs. non- and minimally-processed.
Good vs. bad Fats – What’s The Difference?
Generally, ‘bad’ fats are those crafted in a lab. In essence, researchers and manufacturers work hard to make foods tastier, more pleasant, and with a much longer shelf life.
But, these processes often make foods unhealthy, especially if we consume them regularly. Like margarine for example, is created by transforming liquid oil into solid fat, artificially transforming it into something it wasn’t naturally meant to be.
As Dr Kris Verburgh explains in his fascinating book the Food Hour Glass, these ‘trans’ fats are the most difficult for our bodies to process and eating too much of them often results in health issues. So avoiding human-made fats is a good idea. Like these for example:
- Processed meats
- Fast foods
- Trans fats that appear in many processed foods
- Many cooking oils, including soybean, safflower, and corn oil
What Are Symptoms of Not Eating Enough Fat?
Most people are deathly afraid of overeating fats because of the overall unclarity about them. Yet few consider the consequence of not eating enough dietary fat.
As we covered above, fats play several significant roles within the body, so getting enough of them is essential for our health and well-being. Some signs of fat deficiency include:
- Hormonal issues (including the loss or disruption of the menstrual cycle for women)
- Fatigue, irritability and lack of motivation
- Deficiency in vitamins A and D due to poor absorption
- Brain fog and inability to concentrate
- Feeling cold all the time
To avoid that, make sure you include a regular portion of these amazing healthy fats into your diet immediately:
- Fatty fish
- Whole eggs
- Nuts and seeds
- Extra virgin olive oil
What Happens When I Overeat Good Fats?
Unlike sugar and carbohydrates, healthy fats actually aren’t stored in the body. They are merely used to process nutrients, to use as energy and to feel satiated. So we rarely ‘overeat’ healthy fats, but whatever the body doesn’t use, actually leaves naturally through our digestive system.
Research recommends getting between 20 and 35 percent of our daily calories from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, the fats closest to their natural form.
Meaning, if you’re currently eating about 2,500 calories per day, you should eat between 55 and 97 grams of fat, preferably coming from sources such as avocado, eggs, nuts, and fatty fish.