I was asked if i could write a post about how to increase healthy fats in your diet, and as i love sharing the nutrition information i know i thought i would answer in a post incase others may need the advice! I thought i would first make a post about what are fats, why do we need them and what foods are they in, and second post coming later today how to increase them!
So first off, why do we need healthy fats, and what are healthy fats? I’ll keep it simple and basic as that’s all you really need to know, you don’t need to know the small details such as the number of carbon atoms and bonding of the lipids which people who study nutrition learn!
Lets start with that fat doesn’t make you fat, however an excess of energy over a longer period of time will make your body store that excess energy which can lead to gaining fat and weight. But just because you eat nuts and avocados and use oil doesn’t mean it will make you fat. However, fat does have more energy per gram than carbohydrates or protein but that shouldn’t scare you, fat does make you feel full quicker compared to carbohydrates or protein because it has a higher energy amount per gram.
Fats are necessary in your diet for
1) energy and
2) so that you can absorb and transport the fat soluble vitamins A,D,E,K in your body. Without fat you wouldn’t absorb them and that would lead to problems.
3) The essential fatty acids Omega 3 and 6, it is crucial that you get these fatty acids as your body can’t make them itself and they are essential for cell function and growth!
4) For hormones. Hormones contain lipids i.e fat and hormones control alot of different functions in the body, so without enough fat in your diet your hormones can be a little off which can then lead to many other problems
5) For your nerves and brain.The brain contains alot of essential fat which is necessary for function and protection and also the nerve cells have a layer of myelin which helps the transportation of electrical messages, so without that layer of fat the messages will go slower or not at all i.e you might not be able to think as clear or concentrate as well and just feel/act/think slower.
6) For healthy skin. The cell membranes in our body contain essential lipids which can then control what goes in and out of the cells and without the fat the cells won’t function as they should. Skin can look thinner and more white if there isn’t enough fat in your diet.
7) Keeping you warm. This isn’t so much to do with fat in your diet, but more actually having fat on your body which both protects you and keeps you warm!
8) If your diet is well balanced and contains all the macronutrients you are more likely to feel satisfied after eating and not have a bunch of cravings or constant hunger!
So there are 8 important reasons to eat healthy fats… i mean if these facts don’t make you want to eat more healthy fats i don’t know what will convince you.
Secondly, what exactly is healthy fats vs non healthy fats?
So there is saturated and unsaturated fat (which is then divided into monounsaturated and polunsaturated) and there is transfats. They are slightly different and have slightly different function in the body. (Note there are many more lipids/fats but these are the 4 most talked about).
Saturated fats and transfats increase your LDL (so called “bad cholesterol” though that is rather outdated because cholesterol is the same its just the function of the saturated fats in the body can make the cholesterol get stuck in arteries, but also depends on other factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes etc). Unsaturated fats lower LDL and can increase HDL (so called “good cholesterol”.)
Saturated fats are “firm” at room temperature example butter, cheese, margarine, ice cream, fatty meats, but also milk, cream, palmoil and coconutoil are saturated fats even if they are liquids. These types of fats should be eaten in moderation.
Mono unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature for example olive oil, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil etc but also nuts, seeds, avocado are unsaturated fats.
And then trans fats which are hardened vegetable oils and often used in very processed food such as cakes, cookies, baked goods etc Many countries actually have a ban on trans fats as they are so negative for your health, i don’t think that is the case in USA however. I would advise you all to not eat food that contains trans fats! (However natural transfats can be found in dairy products and meat, but once again… recommendation is to limit intake of those foods for other reasons as well).
What are healthy fats?
The poly and monounsaturated fats for example, nuts, seeds, avocado, salmon, olives and olive oil, mackerel.
It is important to have a good balance of Omega 3 and 6. And Omega 3 can be found in salmon, mackerel, flax seed, walnuts and chia seeds (though they have to be soaked for the omega 3 to be able to be absorbed in the body.)
Omega 6 is often found in plant food/vegetables and in oils. For most people in western society they get more Omega 6 compared to Omega 3 so thye need to increase their intake of Omega 3 rich foods, however its a fine balance you don’t want too much of either.
Also note that many vegan foods do contain palm oil or coconut oil which are saturated and a high intake isn’t recommended, so just because you eat a vegan diet doesn’t mean you eat the right type of fat. But also when it comes to peanuts and peanut butter which contains alot of Omega 6, it is important to vary your nut and seed intake so that you also eat different nuts such as walnuts, almonds, cashewnuts and different seeds such as sunflower, chia, flaxseed, hemp seed so that you get omega 3 as well!
Hopefully this post helps you and has helped explain – in a simple way – why we need fats and what they are. There is alot more detail of course but then it is better to contact a dietician or nutritionist who can help you specifically, but this will atleast give you some simple information!
Also to end this post, there has been the hype and belief that coconut oil is some magical oil and is healthy, however coconut oil is infact saturated and works the same as butter or margarine in the body so its not some magical oil. However it does work great on your hair, for oil pulling, on your skin, as a moisturizer etc etc so it has it’s benefits even if it is not magical food!
Also note, just because fat is important and necessary doesn’t mean that you should over eat on it for example LCHF. Your body also needs carbohydrates and protein, so a very high intake of fats and low intake of carbohydrates isn’t recommend as a healthy diet.