Will eating fat make me fat?
When it comes to dieting, fat often gets a bad rap. But did you know there are four different types of fat that are not all created equally? Healthy fats are an essential part of our diets and are actually beneficial to our health. Unhealthy fats, on the other hand, are linked to various health problems and should be avoided as much as possible.
First things first, what is fat?
Just like protein and carbohydrates, fat is one of the essential macronutrients that we get from our diets. Found in both plant and animal sources, fat has about 9 calories (or about 37kJ) per gram, and should make up 20-35% of your total energy intake.
Why do we need fat?
- Supports cell growth and promotes lean tissue
- Promotes brain development and function
- Keeps us feeling satisfied and satiated
- Protects our organs
- Allows us to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K)
- Keeps our blood sugar and energy levels stable
- Produces important hormones
- Helps our hair and skin to glow
- Improves our lipid profile and lowers our risk of heart disease (when healthy fats replace unhealthy fats)
What are healthy fats?
Healthy fats are unsaturated fats as they are good for our heart health. There are two kinds of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (both of which are equally beneficial). They help improve our cholesterol levels by increasing our HDL (good) levels and decreasing our LDL (bad) levels, which reduces our overall risk of heart disease.
Unsaturated fats are mostly found in plant foods like nuts and seeds, as well as oily fish. If you have a look at the Fodbods nutrition panels, you’ll notice they’re mostly made up of healthy fats due to the high content of nuts.
Note: be mindful of almonds, cashews and pistachios as they are high FODMAP
What are unhealthy fats?
Saturated and trans fats are the unhealthy fats that you want to limit.
Research has shown they increase hepatic and visceral fat which may cause weight gain. They’re also very bad for our heart health – saturated and trans fats (in particular) elevate LDL (bad) levels and suppress HDL (good) levels. Additionally, several studies have reported associations between unhealthy fats and diabetes due to increased insulin resistance.
Trans fats are primarily found in fried foods and should be avoided completely, whilst saturated fats are mostly found in animal products and should be eaten sparingly.
Heart Healthy Tips
- Instead of frying foods, try boiling or steaming.
- Swap butter, lard and coconut oil for olive, canola, peanut or sunflower oils.
- Aim to have fish at least one night per week.
- Use avocado instead of butter as a spread (just be mindful if you’re intolerant to sorbitol - ⅛ of a whole avocado is low FODMAP).
- Go nuts! Add them into your cereal and smoothies, toss into salads, or spread on toast.