What Are Healthy Fats? A Simple List And Explanation
Calorie intake comes from any of the 3 macronutrient groups: carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Each of these macronutrients has specific and very important roles in the body’s functions and metabolism.
Related: Balance your macros, lose weight
The amount of each of these 3 nutrients can be determined based on weight, sex, physical activity, and persona goals.
Also, depending on the training schedule, the amount of each nutrient may vary. For example, one may consume more carbohydrates after an intense work out and less fat, while low carbohydrate intake may be lower prior to an intense workout and fat higher, and so on.
Today, I will focus on the importance of healthy fats for our bodies.
You should be eating more fats (the healthy ones)
Fat is an essential nutrient in the human diet. It provides energy (needed for endurance), and it is responsible for transporting the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Fat is an energy dense macronutrient that provides 9 kcal/gram of energy. Low fat diets (<15%) have not shown any sports performance related benefits and should be avoided. High fat diets (>35%) should be avoided as well because they increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. (Lichtenstein)
The acceptable macronutrient distribution range incorporated in the 2010 dietary guidelines recommends that 20-35% of daily calories come from fat (Health.gov).
It is very important to mention that there are different types of fats and one should focus on consuming larger amounts of the healthy fats available.
The healthy fats...
1. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 Fatty acids
are a key family of polyunsaturated fats. These are essential fats, which means the body cannot produce them so they must be obtained from the diet.
They are an integral part of the cell membrane affecting the function of cell receptors, they are the starting point for blood clotting regulating hormones, and they are involved in artery walls contraction and relaxation (help lower blood pressure) as well as prevent inflammation that can lead to heart disease.
Not too shabby, right? There are 3 main omega-3 fatty acids (Harvard)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Desacohexaenoic acid (DHA) found in fish like salmon, white tuna, mackerel, trout, halibut and sardines.
- Alpha linoleic acid (ALA) found in nuts, flax seed, flax seed oil, vegetable oils, and leafy greens.
2. Omega-6 fatty acids
Also essential polyunsaturated fats. They are found in sunflower, corn, and safflower oils, cereals, whole wheat breads, and some meats. They play important roles in growth and development. Linoleic Acid (LA) accounts for 85-90% of the Omega 6 fatty acids available in the diet.
The ratio recommended for these essential fatty acids is omega 3 > omega 6 because of the pro-inflammatory properties of some omega6 fatty acids.
3. Monounsaturated fats
Examples of these fatty acids include olive oil, peanut and canola oil and avocados, as well as almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame. These fatty acids have beneficial properties towards lowering bad cholesterol and promoting heart health. (Kris)
4. Saturated fats
These are mostly found in animal products (beef, chicken, and pork and their by-products (processed meats, dairy products, etc.) and should be limited because they contribute to clotting of the arteries. Coconut is a plant source of saturated fats, and its consumption should be monitored for this reason.
Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of fats and their benefits, note that most of the “good fats” come from plant sources vs. animal sources (just thought I pointed that little fact).
A balanced diet is essential for overall health and also for building muscle because it needs the calories to work, repair and refuel itself. So don’t be afraid of fats, they are an important nutrient that helps your body function optimally as the amazing machine that it is.
- Omega3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/omega-3-fats/
- Kris, Penny MUFAs and Cardiovascur Disease http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/100/11/1253.full
- Lichtenstein. Very Low Fat Diets. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/98/9/935.full