Nutrition journey – Part 2: Fats

Understanding fats

Fat is one of the three main macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and protein. Fats are an essential part of the diet and plays an important part in overall health. However, it is of great importance to realize that there are different types of fat, which play different roles in the body.

Fat has received mixed attention lately. Even in the athletic field it is hard to keep up with all the media messages and even harder to distinguish between what’s right or wrong. Let take a closer look at FAT.

 

Taking a closer look

Fat contains more than twice the amount of energy than carbohydrates (17kj/g) and protein (17kj/g).
A single gram of fat contains 38kj/g, making it a valuable source of fuel for longer duration activities.
While fat can’t supply energy rapidly enough for high intensity activity, it’s very useful, in fact vital to fuel lower intensity exercises.
Fat is also necessary to transport fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) through the body. Vitamin E is extremely important to athletes, where it acts as antioxidant against oxidative stress caused by exercise.

Therefore fat is necessary to maintain a healthy immunity.

 

  • SATURATED FATS

    These fats are found in food such as red meat (visible fat, also fatty cuts), hard cheese, butter, cream, milk, commercially prepared cakes, pies and cookies. This fat is considered the major cause of coronary heart disease, diabetes and other degenerative illness. No more than 10% of your diet should come from saturated fat. Luckily fat free and lean options is widely available.

     

  • UNSATURATED FATS

    Unsaturated fats are again divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

     

  • Unsaturated fat: monounsaturated fats

    Even though fats have received a bad reputation in the past, monounsaturated fatty acids like olive oil, olives, canola oil, peanut butter, avocado, nuts and seeds can indeed lower the risk of coronary heart disease by reducing bad (LDL) cholesterol that have the potential of clogging artery walls. Monounsaturated fatty acids also provide significant amounts of vit.E.

    Studies suggest that consumption of saturated fats contribute to weight gain in the midsection while monounsaturated fatty acids could indeed contribute to fat loss in the midsection. Best sources of monounsaturated fatty acids: olive, canola and sesame oil, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, avocados, fish oils, pumpkins seeds, peanut butter, fortified margarine (flora proactive), almonds, fat free cream cheese, parmesan and tahini.

  • Unsaturated fat: polyunsaturated fats

    Polyunsaturated fatty acids is known as essential fatty acids and received a lot of attention in the media recently. They have cardio protective properties and could prevent a range of illnesses. There are 3 types of essential fatty acids called omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9 fatty acids. Omega 3 and 6 must be consumed through the diet while the body can produce omega 9 itself. Essential fatty acids are required for healthy cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems.

    OMEGA 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: salmon, pecan nuts, flaxseeds, cold pressed olive oil. This contribute to brain function, eyesight, healthy skin, joints, nervous system, hormone function, immune function, reduce inflammation, could help to suppress appetite and burn stored body fat.

    OMEGA 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids: grapeseed oil, sesame oil, pecan nuts, sunflower oil, evening primrose oil, egg yolk. Support brain development, stimulate growth, maintain skin and hair growth. However excess omega 6 could be negative as to stimulation of growths.

     

Substitution examples

Instead of butter use avocado, humus or tahini as spreads

Instead of butter, palm, coconut and sunflower oil for cooking use canola oil

Instead of chips for snacking snack on nuts and seeds

Instead of deep fried fish have seared or tined tuna or salmon

Instead of high fat hard cheese have fat free cream cheese, parmesan or Tussers

Instead of full cream milk, yogurt and cheese choose fat free

Replace fried cooking methods with methods like steaming, boiling, and grilling. If you must use oil be sure to measure it so you don’t use excess.

Choose leaner meat over red. Swap lamb and fatty beef cuts for turkey, chicken and fish. And trim visible fat of beef cuts.

Whenever possible avoid pre-prepared food and salad dressings that are high in bad fat. Make your own with olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice 

Take away message

I believe that you have a better understanding of fat now that it is clear that all fat is not nearly the same.

Unsaturated fats are necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle. One’s diet should consist of 25-30% fat. Preferably all from unsaturated fats but at most 10% from saturated fats.

Although unsaturated fats have excellent properties in promoting health it is still a fat and all fats irrespective of saturation contains 38kj/g and thus an excess of healthy fats could also contribute to weight gain due to excess energy intake. Thus do not exceed 30% of daily intake.

               Enjoy unsaturated fats daily in moderation.

 

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