In the previous 2 articles, we discussed the best pre-workout foods and best post-workout foods with particular emphasis on protein. Now we all know that protein is only one third of the important macronutrients that is essential to supporting muscle recovery and growth in the body, and it is particularly important for athletes who engage in frequently applying controlled stress to their body. However, fat is also a valuable and essential nutrient to the body, despite the onslaught of negative criticism. So the question persists, is fat really bad for you?
Today we discuss, arguably, the second most important macronutrient required to nourish a healthy body, fat! We also debunk some myths surrounding fat, such as its it really bad for you? We also provide a list of healthy fats that you can incorporate into any diet.
What is Fat?
Fat is a macronutrient required in the body; without it we could not function. Fat provides us with nutrients, including vitamins A, D, E and K, and also acts as an energy source (1g fat = 9kcal energy) to support normal daily functioning and helps power us through workouts. Lipids also increases food satiety with the likes of eggs, coconut oil and nuts all decreasing appetite and increasing the feeling of fullness for longer.
Types of Fat
Fats come in 2 phases, solid and liquid. Solids include butter, lard, nuts, fatty meat and cream while liquid forms include oils.
Fat is also known as a lipid, which includes both liquid and solid states. It can also be categorised based on the type of fat.
Excessive intake of saturated fat is associated with elevated cholesterol levels and an increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Foods high in unsaturated fat include fatty meat, dairy products, cake, biscuits, butter. Saturated fat intake should be restricted to 10% of your total calorie intake; for example: a person on a 2000kcal diet should consume no more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 20g saturated fat per day.
Also known as trans fatty acids, these are synthetically made fats, meaning they do not occur naturally. Often considered one of the worst fats, trans fats don’t contribute to a healthy lifestyle and are not required to maintain a healthy body. Unfortunately, due to their cheap cost and ease of use, trans fats are becoming increasingly prevalent in foods. Adverse effects have been observed from consumption of trans fats including a 3-fold increase in the risk of developing strokes and cardiovascular diseases. Identifying trans fats in foods can be achieved by determining if partially hydrogenated oils are included in the nutritional label. Sources of trans fats includes fried food, fries, pizza dough, pastries, cake, margarine and takeaways.
These are a type of fat found in the blood. They occur when fat available in the body has not been used, any fats that have not been consumed by burning calories are immediately transformed into triglycerides. This energy is then released during meals. Regular consumption of excess fat can lead to high levels of triglycerides present in the fat cells of the body. Triglycerides are associated with hardening of the arteries, leading to increased blood pressure, increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. Doctors can perform a routine blood test to determine if you levels fall within the healthy range. Lifestyle choices such as engaging in regular exercise, choosing to eat healthier fats, reducing refined carbohydrates and alcohol in the diet can contribute to a normal level of triglycerides in the body.
Unsaturated fat: These can be categorised into monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.
This type of fat has been associated with increasing the levels of good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) while reducing bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) levels. It can be obtained from avocados, peanuts and various oils including olive oil and sunflower oil. High-oleic foods are ones with particularly high source of monounsaturated fat. This is why many nutritional plans created for people, whether on a weight loss nutrition plan or weight training nutrition plan, include these types of fat. Additionally, the Mediterranean diet has been highly acclaimed for various health benefits, including reduction in chronic diseases such as heart disease, even though it is high in healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats. Despite these benefits, it’s still a high-calorie food and consumption of monounsaturated fat needs to be monitored. Additionally, health benefits may not be observed if saturated fat intake is not reduced. Surprisingly, there is no recommended daily allowance for monounsaturated fats.
Another member of the unsaturated fats list is polyunsaturated fat. It is considered an essential fat, meaning that they are required for normal healthy bodily functioning though the body cannot produce them. As a result, the body must obtain essential fats from food sources. Polyunsaturated fats include both omega 3 and omega 6, which can offer excellent health benefits, such as lowering blood cholesterol levels, cell development and there have also been links between omega 3 and arthritis reduction, reduced joint pain and treatment for some dermatological diseases. Omega 6 has been linked with promoting healthy skin, hair and bones. Again, no recommended daily allowance limits have been established for polyunsaturated fats. Regardless of this, the best approach to adopt is to obtain most of your fat intake from these healthy fats as opposed to foods high in saturated fat and trans fats.
- Fats are an important constituent in any diet; some fats are healthy, others are not so healthy.
- Lipids enhance satiety levels and have been shown to regulate food intake
- Healthy fats, such as saturated fats, should constitute any healthy nutritional plan, regardless of end goals (weight loss, strength or endurance).
- Saturated fats and in particular, trans fatty acids, should be consumed in minimal quantities.
- Even though monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats do not have a recommended daily allowance, the emphasis should be to replace as much trans fat and saturated fat in the diet with these healthy fats.
Healthy Fats List
Monounsaturated fat: Nuts, avocado, sunflower oil, olive oil, peanut butter, any high-oleic oils (e.g. high-oleic sunflower oil)
Omega 3: Fish oil, tuna, salmon, mackerel, olive oil, chia seeds, soy beans
Omega 6: Sunflower oil, peanuts, grape seeds, avocado oil, walnuts
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