Let’s face it, when we hear the word “fat” we think bad, ugly thoughts. Here’s where I interject a big “BUT”… but fat needs to be part of our diet because it is good for us. Now, it is time to qualify that statement! Fat is one of 3 macronutrients that are absolutely necessary for our bodies to function. The other two macronutrients are carbohydrate and protein.
Simply put, macronutrients are those nutrients that are required in large amounts to nourish our bodies. Micronutrients, minerals and vitamins, are needed in smaller amounts.
Fat is the most misunderstood macronutrient of the bunch. Part of this stems from the fact that a gram of fat contains 9 calories where a gram of a carbohydrate or a protein contains 4 calories. The thing to remember is no matter what you’re consuming, if you consume more calories than you require the rest will be converted and stored in the body as fat.
Another important point is there are two different types of fat. Saturated fats are found in animal products (milk, butter, fatty meats and cheese) and can contribute to an increase in levels of what’s known as the bad cholesterol or LDL. Conversely, unsaturated fats can decrease LDL levels and increase the good cholesterol, or HDL, levels. Unsaturated fats are found in olive oil, canola oil, nuts, fish and avocados.
In the body, fat is broken down through a complex process that converts fat molecules to energy. This process is known as metabolism. This chemical reaction breaks the fat into glycerol and fatty acids. The liver, kidneys and muscles absorb these and break them down completely. The most important byproduct of this part of the process is heat that helps to maintain body temperature.
In addition to keeping us warm, fat also plays a role in the reduction of inflammation and blood clotting.
If you would like to get fat working for you make a point of:
- Make healthier choices by consuming unsaturated fats and avoiding saturated fats.
- Keep your calories from fat to 20 – 35% of your total daily caloric consumption. As an example, that’s less than 80 grams for a 2,000-calorie daily diet.
- Read food labels and learn about what you’re eating.
All fat is not created equal. Some of it is good and so good for us, and the reality is that we really can’t live without it.
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