Nowadays, everybody is conscious about what they eat, when they eat and how many calories they eat. Most people who are looking to lose weight turn to low fat diets as a way to drop some pounds. However, swapping fats for carb alternatives can actually make you gain weight.
It’s totally understandable that people who count their calories see fat as a bad diet component. Fat is almost always more calorie dense than most other foods, meaning conscious dieters tend to completely wipe it out of their weight loss diet plan. The general conception of fat is that the more fat you eat, the more fat your body will store and put on as weight. Whilst snacking on unprocessed foods or constantly over-eating can make you gain weight, fat itself is not always necessarily the sole cause.
Fats are more favourable than carbohydrates for those seeking to lose wight, as they are harder to digest than many other nutrients. This means that the digestion process takes much longer, keeping you feeling fuller for longer and therefore reducing the desire to snack. It’s also interesting to note that fats help to boost your metabolism for the simple reason that your body needs more energy to break it down.
There are two types of fuel for your body which stem from either burning sugar or burning fat. With carbohydrates, the enzymes in our saliva start to break them down and stimulate insulin – which prompts the body to start burning sugar and storing the rest as fat.
So, how much fat should I eat?
There’s no set answer to this, but on average it is recommended that you aim to eat around 30% (of your daily calories) as fat. This can vary depending on a person’s body type, height, and general health.
Fat that is stored by our bodies is also known as “adipose tissue.” The main purpose of adipose tissue is to store away excess energy (or calories) which will be used when your body needs it. For many professional bodybuilders, on the lead up to competitions they will usually try to lose as much body fat as possible in order to maintain a defined body type. This can usually lead to many health complications as our bodies rely on fat to survive.
Types of fat
Fats fall under 3 main categories which are:
- Unsaturated fats
These are also known as ‘good fats’ and should be an integral part of your daily diet. There are two main types of unsaturated fats which are: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. These fats can have a positive effect on heart-health by lowering bad cholesterol levels and preventing inflammation. Popular sources of unsaturated fats are almonds, sesame seeds, and olive oil as they boast high levels of monounsaturated fats. More polyunsaturated dense foods are fish, flaxseed oil and sunflower oil. A very popular source of unsaturated fat is Omega-3, usually found in fish, and has many benefits for the heart.
- Saturated fats
Red meat is the most prominent source of saturated fat. High levels of saturated fats are usually found in beef, and full fat dairy products. Nevertheless, saturated fats are still important for us to function, but only in moderate amounts. The official dietary guidance suggests that Americans should keep their intake of saturated fats to less than 10 percent of their daily diet.
- Trans fats
Probably the most desired fat, but also the worst. Trans-fats are usually artificial and added by food engineers. The process of creating this type of fat is known as hydrogenation. Foods that usually contain trans fats include margarine, crips and some biscuits.
The bottom line is that eating fat does not make you fat. What makes us put on weight is eating excess calories – in any form. Low-fat diets are not recommended if weight loss is the sole aim. A balanced diet including moderate amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is preferred, with the additional health benefits also a bonus.
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