The Skinny on Dietary Fat

Stop me if you’ve heard this before – “fat doesn’t make you fat. Or, you can eat as much fat as you want – as long as you don’t eat carbs with it.” On the flip side, “fat goes straight to body fat, so you must eat low fat.”

It is easy to see why dietary fat might be almost just as controversial as carbs when it comes to nutrition, and especially the fat loss crowd.

Here are the basics to note:

  • Dietary fat is 9 calories per gram (carbs and protein are 4)
  • Dietary fat is essential for cellular development, heart health (yes) and hormone health
  • Dietary fat comes in a few forms, some better than others…

Speaking of various forms, and you may have heard of these so I’ll keep it quick.

1) Saturated Fat – these fats are solid at room temp, and have been linked to increased triglycerides (not good) and higher levels of LDL cholesterol (not good either) when overconsumed. They include butter, lard, animal fats, and coconut oil. Intake goal should be right around 10% of your total calories.

2) Trans Fats – these are man-made fats and are really bad for you (no one will argue with that one) – they raise your LDL and lower your HDL, and raise your Triglycerides. Trans fats are found in fried foods, premade desserts, and other junk food. Intake goal should be as little as possible.

3) Unsaturated Fats – (this could be broken down into Mono and Poly-Unsaturated)

Unsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. They also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells. Oils rich in polyunsaturated fats also contribute vitamin E to the diet, an antioxidant vitamin most Americans need more of.

Foods rich unsaturated fats also provide essential fats that your body needs but can’t produce itself – such as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. You must get essential fats through food. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are important for many functions in the body.

Good sources of unsaturated fats are oils (stick to olive, avocado, and some canola as much as possible), nuts, olives, avocados, and fatty fish like salmon.

How much fat should you eat?

According to most credible resources, the recommendations for dietary fat intake are:

– 20-35% of your calories per day from all fat

– <10% of your calories from saturated fat, and none from Trans Fat

Of course, you will have your outliers and people telling you to eat more fat…and maybe that works for them, which is great. However, you need to find what works for YOU, and what makes you feel the best while getting results.

Never forget the BIG picture – calories are KING when it comes to fat loss. It doesn’t matter where they come from, as long as you are in a surplus, you will gain weight.

This brings me to my final point. Most people tend to not realize how much fat they consume, and thus how many calories they are really consuming. I’m not saying you need a low fat diet, but keeping your fat within 20-35% of your calories is less than most think.

Example: If you are eating 2500 calories. 55 to 97 grams of fat per day would put you in the 20-35% range.

Now consider this:

  • 1 oz. slice of cheese – 10g Fat
  • 2 eggs – 10g of fat
  • 1 oz of mixed nuts – 12g fat
  • 1 Tbsp. butter – 12g fat
  • Half an avocado – 10g fat

And now you are already at 54 grams of fat. Or you could just eat:

  • A Big Mac and A Large Fry – 52 grams. (good luck avoiding any more fat the rest of the day)

Doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad fat, it still adds up quick and so do the calories from it. I am NOT advocating a low-fat diet, as anything under 20% for long periods of time can really mess with your hormones, and it’s not fun.

Moreso, I am urging you to be aware of how much you are truly eating, and how easy it is to underestimate calories, especially from fat. It doesnt take much to add in hundreds of extra cals, as you can see here (via Ftibit.com):

480 cals vs. 180 cals of mixed nuts…

330 cals vs. 165 cals of cheese…

Awareness and education are always KEY – remember that.

Stay healthy my friends,

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