Macronutrients Series: Fats
Photo by Alison Marras on Unsplash
This is part 3 of my 3-part series covering the three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fats. If you haven’t checked out part 1 on protein or part 2 on carbohydrates, find them here and here. In this final part, I will cover fats!
Fats have made quite the comeback in recent years. Growing up, I remember my mother stocked the house with crackers and snacks labeled "low-fat" and bought I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Lite instead of real butter. These low-fat foods were thought to be healthier for us and help prevent cardiovascular disease and weight gain. However, these foods were full of refined, rancid oils, sugars, and fake foods that caused all sorts of health problems.
I recommend to my clients that for optimal health, they eat a moderate amount of healthy fats daily. It can be just as unhealthy to avoid all fats as it is to consume them in large quantities.
Why? Because fats play crucial roles in the body. They are used to make cell membranes, store energy, make your hormones, carry fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K, slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, and support brain health (the brain is 60% fat).
What fats should I eat?
Fats are building blocks, and the better the blocks, the stronger the building. Therefore, it is important to consume stable, naturally-occurring healthy fats. These include:
- Grassfed, organic butter
- Other clean animal fats
- Milk - grassfed, raw whole products
- Pastured, organic eggs
- Fish (such as salmon and sardines)
- Seeds (such as chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin)
- Nuts and nut butters (look for ones without added oils and sugars)
- Olives and olive oil
Unhealthy fats that you want to avoid include:
- Vegetable oils such as canola oil, cottonseed oil, etc. These are highly refined and contain a balance of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids that cause inflammation in the body. Based on their refining and often high-heat cooking (frying, roasting, etc.) they also go rancid, which means they contain free radicals. Free radicals wreak havoc in the body and are the reason we need anti-oxidants.
- Partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats), including margarine, shortening, and in many processed, packaged foods.
- Saturated animal fats from conventionally-raised animals. Many toxins, including pesticides, are fat-soluble and concentrate themselves in the fat of conventionally-raised animals. We then eat them. Conventionally-raised animals also contain an unhealthy, pro-inflammatory balance of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids, while grassfed and pastured animals do not.
How much fat should I eat?
Just as with protein and carbohydrates, this depends on the individual person. If you are moderately active, start with getting 33% of your daily calories from healthy fats and move up or down depending on how you feel.
Fats contain 9 calories per gram, so a little goes a long way. For instance, getting 33% of your calories from fat on a 2,000 calorie diet equals about 75 grams of fat per day. This equates to about 1/2 avocado (14 grams), 2 eggs (10 grams), 2 tablespoons olive oil (28 grams), 2 tablespoons seeds such as chia or hemp (9 grams), and 1 ounce of almonds (14 grams).
I personally eat more fat than this because that is what makes me feel my best! I have several tablespoons of coconut oil, olive oil, and ghee per day either in coffee, scrambled eggs, salad dressings or on roasted vegetables. I also eat 2 eggs per day, fish and red meat several times per week, several avocados per week, and seeds and seed butters in smoothies, on top of toast and with fruit. I also occasionally snack on coconut chips and spoonfuls of coconut butter! Rather than count calories, I just give my body what it is craving!