21 Aug Fat Makes You Fat? The Nonsense Continues
How many times have you heard this? “I’m still fat because I’m eating too much fat.” As professionals, when we hear this, we either roll our eyes to the back of our heads, or mentally scratch our brain while the people continue their rant on how fat is bad for you. You’ll find that most people just are not educated on the science of nutrition and simply believe anything their fellow ‘gym rat’ tells them or whatever they see on those ridiculous late night infomercials. No wonder our population is so misled, when it comes to proper nutrition. Lets get some of these myths set straight and inform you all on the importance of a very essential nutrient that we must be consuming daily; FAT.
Lipids, more commonly known as fat, are a group of compounds that include triglycerides, phospholipids, and sterols. 99% of the stored lipids in our body are triglycerides, which are just three fatty acids attached to a glycerol backbone. Fat is the most concentrated source of energy in the diet. One gram of fat equals nine calories, which is just over two times the amount of calories per gram than carbohydrate and protein. This is one of the main reasons you can add fat at a quicker rate, if you are not strategically keeping track of how much you are eating. It is a very calorically dense nutrient, the most calorically dense in fact, which makes it easier to eat over your maintenance amount of calories, if not tracked by the serving. I mean how many times have you seen someone snacking on a big bag of peanuts and they say “these are healthy for you!” Yeah, they’re healthy for you, but not if you eat the whole bag!
It may seem odd at first, but eating fat also helps you burn fat! The key here is to eat the “good” fats. These “good” fats include monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and omega-3 fatty acids. The problem with our population is that we consume too much of the omega-6 fatty acids and not enough of the omega-3 fatty acids. An optimal balance of omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 2:1 to 1:1. Studies show that the typical American diet is made up of a ratio of 25:1 up to 50:1. This is terrible. “Significant amounts of omega-6 intake create an imbalance that can interfere with the production of important prostaglandins.” Prostaglandins are a group of lipid compounds that have important functions in the body. This imbalance that’s created could result in blood clot formation, high blood pressure, digestive issues, cancer, weight gain, and increased inflammation. They’ve even had studies show that excess omega-6 fat intake causes human prostate tumor cell cultures to multiply twice as quickly. We need to do a better job of consuming omega-3 fats to balance out this ratio.
Don’t be convinced by the “saturated fat is bad for you” ordeal either. The key to this myth is to consume your saturated fats from healthy sources. Saturated fat is a key fat for hormone production and protects against the harmful nature of trans fats. The Weston A. Price Foundation found that, “saturated fats play important roles in body chemistry,” and Dr. William Castelli found that, “the people who ate the most cholesterol, saturated fat, and calories had lower serum cholesterol, weighed the least, and were the most physically active.” Don’t let society and the media brainwash you; do your research!
A fat you should absolutely avoid is trans-fatty acids or trans fats. Trans fats are made through hydrogenation, which is the process of adding hydrogen to unsaturated fatty acids to make them harder at room temperature, which will increase the food’s shelf life. Trans fats have been shown to increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and decrease HDL (good) cholesterol. Trans fats are basically poison to your body. They interfere with the metabolic processes. Stay away.
Another misconception heard a lot is that vegetable oil is good for you. Vegetable oil is absolutely horrible for you. Vegetables are not supposed to be in an oil state; they are supposed to be eaten in their natural state. Some of the oils consumed frequently that are mistaken for good oils are corn, soybean, safflower, peanut, canola, and sunflower oil. These oils are processed and way too high in omega-6 fats damaging free radicals in your body and causing potential inflammation and promoting cancer. Stay away from these!
Some of the best fats you can consume are olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, omega-3 fats from fish such as salmon, herring, and sardines, coconut oil, cod liver oil, and saturated fats from egg yolks, butter and whole milk. One thing I see a lot of people doing wrong is cooking with olive oil. The only oil you should be cooking with is coconut oil. Coconut oil contains highly stable oils called medium chain triglycerides, or MCTs. MCTs are great for your immune system, intestinal health, and weight management. Coconut oil has a very high smoke point and the important fats that you are consuming the oil for won’t be destroyed from the heat. It’s the complete opposite for olive oil however. If you are adding olive oil to a meal, drizzle it over your food after you have already cooked it.
According to the Institute of Medicine, 20-35% of your total caloric intake should come from fat. Some of the most important functions fats are involved in are:
- Cellular membrane structure and function
- Precursors to hormones
- Cellular signals
- Regulation and excretion of nutrients in the cells
- Surrounding, protecting, and holding in place organs
- Insulating the body
- Prolonging the digestive process (increasing fullness after a meal)
- Increasing the release of hormones
Fat is an essential nutrient and should be consumed daily. Don’t neglect it.
Paul A. Hovan Jr., B.S., NASM CPT, CSN
References: The Power of 4, Paula Owens NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, Fourth Edition