Fats: the Other Macronutrient that Gets a Bad Rap

Since I wrote about protein (twice, click here and then click here if you missed them) and carbohydrates, it’s only natural to finish off the macronutrients and talk about fats. This isn’t meant to be super extensive and tell you everything, but give you basic information and tell you HOW to use it.

Fats got a little bit of an unfair shake back in the 90s. All the so-called health foods were advertising that they were low-fat. Companies even started using fat replacements like olestra… then we found out if you have too much of that it causes “gastrointestinal distress”…. no thanks. Around that time period, if you look at obesity trends in America, they start to take off. Fats were bad and we needed more carbs, hence why they were the base of the outdated food pyramid.

Now we have gone 180 and you see diets that have moderate to high amounts of fat like Keto, and Mediterranean. I want to reiterate that I am “nutritionally agnostic”, what I mean by that is I’m not married to any diet or method. I’m more about what works for each person based on their preferences, lifestyle, and what they have access to.

Fats are made up of fatty acids, which can be broken down into saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Unsaturated fatty acids can be broken down further into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. We need all 3. We need a balance.

We need dietary fats for energy production (especially if you are into endurance things like running, biking, and swimming), making and balancing hormones in the body, cell membranes, the brain and the rest of the nervous system. We also need fats to transport fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. We need to consume fats to get omega 3 and 6 fatty acids because our bodies can’t make those on our own (those are important, that’s why you see omega 3 supplements).

So what food sources are good for each type of fatty acid?

For monounsaturated fatty acids, eat:

  • almonds
  • olives
  • cashews
  • avocado
  • peanuts
  • egg yoke

For polyunsaturated fatty acids, eat:

  • chia seeds
  • oily fish
  • pine nuts
  • walnuts
  • flax seed
  • hemp seed

Saturated fats are found mostly in meat, and most people get enough. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you may need to focus on eating more:

  • coconut oil
  • coconut milk
  • shredded coconut
  • whole milk
  • butter

So how do you figure out how much fat you need? A good starting point is 1 thumb-sized serving at each meal for women, 2 thumb-sized servings for men. Don’t go crazy on the fats, most are very calorie dense.

So to sum it up, we need all the macronutrients, using a variety of whole food sources in the right amounts to be healthy and promote good body composition. Don’t demonize one of them, they all provide essential nutrients our bodies need.

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