Gone are the days when we believed that fat was the cause of weight gain and health problems. We now know so much better than to think eating fat in our foods led to being fat. But understanding fat still isn’t quite this simple, so I want to break down the details about the third macro for you, so you can take charge of your nutrition!
One of the reasons fat has been linked with weight gain in the past is its calorie density - this means it contains more calories per gram than the other macros, 9 calories per gram to be specific. So even though you may be eating a small amount, fat consumption can have a significant impact on your energy balance. And we know that calories in versus calories out is what determines whether we are gaining or losing when it comes to our bodies.
But in the real world, our bodies actually need fat to survive. There are even a few kinds of fat that we need to eat regularly in order to keep functioning. We also now know that there are certain kinds of fats that are good for us, so I’m going to break down the myths about fat and tell you exactly what is good and not so good for you!
Let’s start with the different kinds of fats
The different chemical structure of fats is what determines what category they fall into. Those different chemical structures then control how the body interacts with them, digests them and uses them.
• Trans Fat:
avoid these, they have been shown to increase your bad cholesterol levels and suppress your good cholesterol. They are an inflammatory nutrient which means they are linked to health conditions like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Where to find them: cookies, cakes, pastries, highly processed snacks like crackers and microwave popcorn, margarine, fried foods like donuts and deep fried takeaway. Any foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
• Saturated Fat:
You don’t need to completely avoid saturated fat, but research tells us that saturated fat should be limited or eaten sparingly. Saturated fats are linked to similar problems as trans fats, like heart disease and poor cholesterol levels, but they aren’t as potent in their negative impact on the body. Where to find them: often present in animal products (especially fatty cuts and skin) and dairy, lard and palm and coconut oil.
• Monounsaturated Fat: AKA monounsaturated fatty acids or MUFAs.
These are considered healthy fats because they have been linked with weight loss, decreased inflammation and improved heart health. Where to find them: olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, eggs.
• Polyunsaturated Fat:
AKA polyunsaturated fatty acids, or PUFAs and included omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which are essential (meaning you need to eat them because the body can’t make them). Also considered a healthy type of fat, as it can help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, improve heart health, reduce blood triglyceride (aka fat) levels, improve blood sugar levels and reduce blood pressure. Where to find them: walnuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds (and oil), soybean oil, safflower oil, corn oil, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, trout. It’s important to understand that eating fat will not make you fat!
Even though they are referred with the same name, dietary fat and fat deposits in the body are two very different things, and we need to treat them as such. The only thing that can really make you put on body fat stores is consuming more CALORIES than you burn.
So how much fat should you actually be eating?
This is actually quite a complex question to answer - we are all individuals and each body responds uniquely to different nourishment. As a general guide or a good starting point, your meals should look a little like this:
• 1 palm-sized serve of protein
• 1 cupped handful of carbs
• 1 thumb-sized serve of fats
Or you might prefer to break your whole day’s intake down by macronutrients, in this case, you should start by dividing your daily calories up into the following ratio: • 40% carbs
• 30% protein
• 30% fat
It’s important to remember that nutrition is not a one-size fits all answer and these recommendations are a good place to build your diet from. For the average female, this might equate to about: • 140 grams of protein per day • 190 grams of carbohydrates per day • 63 grams of fat per day If all this technical info is a little overwhelming, don't stress - I gotchaaa! I have meal plans for my plant-based girls and also girls on a regular diet too, so head on over to my meal plans page to see which will get you started on the path to better health & a better body!