A few weeks ago, I was inspired to start a three-part series discussing the importance each of the three macronutrients, fat, protein, and carbohydrates and the roll they play in our lives. I started off the series with Tracking Macronutrients: Getting Enough Protein after a good friend asked if I’d considered tracking and posting my daily protein consumption.
Up next of the three macronutrients is fat. When I’m tracking my food intake on MyFitnessPal, I notice that fat is often well represented in my diet. On the particular day that I took this screen shot, my fat consumption was only 1% above the recommended percentage for that day. Other days it’s much higher and occasionally it falls well below the recommendation of 30%.
Why Our Bodies Need Fat
Despite its long history as being bad for us, fat is a vital part of a healthy diet. The key is selecting healthy fats which are good for your overall health. One of three macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates), fat aids in storing energy and promoting cell growth. Fat also helps with absorption of valuable vitamins A, D, and E and generates necessary hormones.
Fat, Exercise, and Weight Control
Fat cells within the body produce the hormone leptin which is then released into our bloodstream. Leptin’s primary responsibility is to let the body know when it’s full; therefore, reducing the appetite by increasing satiety. With a reduced appetite, less food is consumed during meals and the desire to snack afterward is decreased. Eating less during meals and reduced snacking result in fewer calories consumed.
Additionally, energy is stored in fat cells which in turn can be used to fuel our workouts, especially when we’re in the fat burning zone. To enter the fat burning zone, workout at 70% of your maximum heart rate which is roughly…
- (220 – your age) x .7 = fat burning zone
How Much Fat Do We Need?
Experts suggest that fat consumption should be .25 to .4 grams per day for each pound of body weight, or 20 to 35% of total daily calories.
- • 120-pound person should eat 30 to 48 grams per day
- • 150-pound person should eat 38 to 60 grams per day
- • 180-pound person should eat 45 to 72 grams per day
Individuals who do not consume enough of the essential fatty acids may experience skin conditions including dry or scaly skin.
Good Versus Bad Fats
Don’t let fats’ bad rap scare you. Yes, fats are associated with heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, but they also play an important role in keeping us healthy.
Unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are generally considered good for your heart, don’t raise cholesterol, and contribute to overall good health. These good fats can help to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Saturated fats, on the other hand, are better eaten in moderation (10% or less of daily calories) because they can raise bad LDL cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease.
Trans fats, now banned in the USA, came on the market to extend the shelf life of foods. With no known positive health value, they can contribute to both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Foods High in Fat
When choosing fats, choose unsaturated over saturated fats. Also, choosing plant based over animal based will provide heart healthier fats. Good fat choices include:
- Salmon and other fatty fishes
- Dairy, cheese, yogurt
- Olive and coconut oils
- Dark chocolate
Even though we may try to avoid eating fats because we think they’re not a part of a healthy diet, in reality, they’re essential to our health. The key is choosing fats that contribute to our overall well being without negatively affecting our heart health.
- • What are your favorite fat sources? ~ Ummm, mint chocolate chip ice cream? 😬
- • Do you feel that you eat the right kinds of fat?
- • Which macronutrient do you consume most? ~ All the carbs!