Facts About Fats
Fats are an essential part of our diet, but you need to get the quantity and type just right to reach your ideal weight and body composition.
The total amount of fatty foods you eat has a significant effect on health and weight so it's best to minimize these in your diet. People also tend to put on weight if they over-eat carbohydrates.
And it’s easy to eat too much of both types of food because they are less satisfying than protein. If you focus on getting enough low fat protein and healthy carbohydrates , it may help you to cut down the amount of fat in your diet.
Your total daily intake should be somewhere between:
• 30 – 60g (women and children), and
• 40 – 80g per day (men)
if your total a daily calorie intake of 1800 – 2500 calories.
That is, 20 – 30% of your total daily calorie intake.
The lower values in these ranges (e.g. 30g, 40g) may be appropriate for overweight or obese people.
How much is 30 – 80g? To give you some context, there’s about 50g of fat in a fast food meal of two pieces of fried chicken and small serve of chips. So for some people, that’s their total daily fat intake in one meal.
It’s good to keep an eye on your intake, and choose moderate amounts of healthy fats. Think of it this way – you avoid pouring fats down your kitchen sink because they clog up the drain. You should also avoid pouring them into your body because they might clog up your arteries.
Here’s my list of high fat foods, containing over 20% fat – use sparingly.
Foods with 20g or more per 100g of food include:
* Indicates presence of omega 3 fatty acids in the food.
Here’s my list of moderate fat foods, containing 3 - 20g fat per 100g of food.
Foods with 3 - 20g fat per 100g of food include:
* Indicates presence of omega 3 fatty acids in the food.
Here’s my list of low fat foods, containing less than 3g fat per 100g of food.
Foods with less than 3g fat per 100g of food include:
Rather than just list low fat food, moderate and high fat food, we must also understand the type of fats we’re eating.
Types of Fats
If you want to lose weight and maintain a healthy body fat percentage, you’ll want to get the right balance of healthy fats in your diet so your body can function effectively. There are four main types of fats:
• Monounsaturated fats which lower cholesterol,
• Polyunsaturated fats which lower cholesterol; omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat,
• Saturated fats which increase cholesterol. They are harder for the body to break down, and should be less than 10% of a total healthy fat intake, and
• Trans fats which behave in a similar way to saturated fat in your body. They are made by applying high temperature and/or pressure to plant fats. They have a longer shelf life (take longer to go rancid than regular fats). They should make up less than 1% of total daily fat intake.
Here are the main sources of these fats:
Omega 3 fatty acids are the healthiest because they lower inflammation in the body, lower blood triglycerides, improve blood vessel elasticity, thin the blood, reduce blood pressure and may help reduce the risk of many health conditions including depression and Alzheimer’s disease. They can also help you lose weight. We should try to get more of our daily fat intake from these sources.
Ideally, we should get roughly equal amounts of omega 3 fatty acids and other fat sources - that is, a 1:1 ratio.
Western diets are usually out of balance; they tend to have too much saturated fats and trans fats and not enough monounsaturated and omega 3 (polyunsaturated) fats. The actual ratio of other fats to omega 3 fats in Western societies is about 25:1, a far cry from the ideal 1:1 ratio.
This type of imbalance in dietary fatty acids can lead to increased inflammation, problems with the immune system, and impaired hormone and brain activity. These can be barriers to weight loss.
More about Omega 3 fatty acids
There are three main types of omega 3 fatty acids:
• Alpha linoleic acid (ALA) from flaxseeds (linseed), seaweeds, nuts and seeds,
• Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from seafood and water plants, and
• Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from seafood and brain tissue.
Our bodies need all three types for optimal health. ALA’s can be converted by the body to EPA and DHA, but the conversion rate is less than 30% and is even lower when there are excess saturated fats, omega 6 fats and/or regular alcohol intake.
On that basis, vegans and vegetarians need to take care to get enough omega 3 fatty acids in their diets from plant sources, and to minimize both saturated fat and alcohol intake.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of fat that is actually made by your liver. It’s used by the body to make hormones, vitamin D, bile acid and healthy cell walls.
Our liver makes more than half of our daily cholesterol needs – about 1000mg per day. It is made from the saturated fat we eat. Cholesterol also comes from some foods – mainly animals products like eggs, meat and dairy, and also from some seafood like prawns and crayfish.
The two types of cholesterol are LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. LDL is often called bad cholesterol because too much of it contributes to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). HDL is often called the good cholesterol because a higher level of it can protect against heart disease by reducing atherosclerosis.
There’s a lot to understand on this page, so here's a summary:
• The healthiest fats are polyunsaturated fats, specifically, omega 3 fatty acids,
• High protein low fat foods are the best sources of fat, this includes fish and lean poultry, although the fish also contains omega 3 fatty acids,
• Nuts and seeds are high in fat, but small amounts are beneficial, particularly if you choose walnuts which contain omega 3 fatty acids, and
• Wild rice, legumes, water plants and vegetables are all healthy low-fat foods.