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Fats:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Learn more about fat in Nutrition 101 as part of National Nutrition Month®!

Fat is back…

Fat is back in the spotlight after being shunned throughout the non-fat trend of the 80s.

Advice to avoid fat started in the mid-70s when the first dietary guidelines recommended limiting fat consumption.  The thought was that people would replace fat with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

However, the result was that people ate more simple carbs, aided by the food industry taking fat out of foods and replacing it with sugar, creating a plethora of non-fat and low-fat snack foods.

Fat is a macronutrient

healthy fats - salmon, asparagus, vegetablesFat is a macronutrient that provides energy and helps the body process fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Fat provides more calories per gram than the other macronutrients, at 9 calories per 1 gram versus 4 calories for protein or carbohydrates.

Fatty foods are so appealing because they are usually combined with enticing aromas and flavors and provide a pleasing mouthful.

Fat also contributes to feelings of satiety, however it’s easy to overeat before the body processes the feeling of fullness.  Eating slowly and savoring foods can help allow for time for the body to process those signals from fat.

Essential fatty acids

Essential fatty acids are fats that cannot be produced by the body and therefore must be consumed.

healthy fats - olive oilThese essential fatty acids act as building blocks for the body to make needed products, these eicosanoids act like hormones in the body and influence muscle contraction and relaxation, blood clot formation, immune response, and blood vessel constriction and dilation.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of linolenic acid that play an important role in heart health.  These essential omega-3s can be found in fatty fish, like salmon and sardines.

They’re thought to provide anti-inflammatory properties that are helpful in lowering rates of some cancer, and promote healthy tissue functioning.

Saturated fat

Saturated fat means that every available bond with a carbon contains a hydrogen.  This means that at room temperature most saturated fats are more solid, like butter, beef fat, and coconut oil.

Saturated fats should be eaten on a limited basis because they’re associated with heart disease.  These fats can clog the arteries making the heart work harder to pump blood.

Trans fats

Trans fats should also be avoided.

healthy fats - peanuts, almonds, pistachios, walnutsTrans fats refer to polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have a trans configuration.  These fats don’t occur in nature and are therefore usually found in processed foods, typically foods that contain hydrogenated oils.

Similar to saturated fats, trans fatty acids increase risk of heart disease, by raising LDL cholesterol levels, lowering HDL cholesterol, and increasing inflammation.


Fats and your diet

So what does all these mean for your diet?  Try to replace red meat and processed foods with plant-based fats and whole foods.

For example, serve fish instead of steak; go for nuts or avocado toast instead of candy bars or processed baked goods.

Replacing saturated fats and trans fats with omega-3s and monounsaturated fats can reduce your risk for heart disease and trim your waistline.

How to reduce body fat

Don’t forget to check out this blog post on how to reduce body fat.

Did you participate in the non-fat craze of the 80s?  How have you introduced fat back into your diet?  Let us know on the Sweet Life Wellness Facebook Page!

If you’d like more information on how to balance your nutritional needs, have a talk with Kay.  Call to book your complimentary coaching call with Kay today at:  301-869-1787

Blog Author:Lauren Seat - Sweet Life Wellness Intern
Lauren Seat
Sweet Life Wellness Student Intern
Dietetics student at University of Maryland-College Park

Aubrey A (2014) Why We Got Fatter During The Fat-Free Food Boom. In: Accessed 21 Mar 2017

 Hanan M (2016) Dietary Fatty Acids: An Overview – Dietetically Speaking. In: Dietetically Speaking. Accessed 21 Mar 2017

Moores S (2014) Want to Get Lean? Eat Fat! In: Accessed 22 Mar 2017

Sizer FS, Whitney E (2014) Nutrition: Concepts & Controversies, 13th Edition. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, U.S.A.