Our Love Hate Relationship With Fat: What Fat Is Good For?

Sep 24, 2009 | Eating Right

Editors Note: This post is written by contributor Gina Ryan. Gina is a licensed nutritionist and Wellness coach from Hawaii.

Fat. The word itself will bring up some emotion for most people and for many it isn’t pretty!  Love it or hate it we find it back in the news, now with the scientific community saying the science was not really there all along.

Take for example this quote from a recent article;

“For more than three decades, we’ve been told that fatty foods are deadly, to blame for a full menu of health hazards, from heart disease to obesity to cancer. Regularly described as the nutritional equivalent of cigarettes, fat has been the target of public-service campaigns and municipal bans aimed at keeping us slender and healthy. But a growing body of international research suggests our obsessive fear of fat may be misplaced. A high-fat diet won’t necessarily make us sick or fat; a low-fat diet may not make us healthy or slim.” from Janet Paskin | June/July Ode Magazine.

This is enough to make one think there’s a conspiracy theory out there! The reality is that things are often simply taken to the extreme. If a little is good then a lot must be great type of thinking has gotten the nutrition community into a lot of hot water.

The low fat craze began with the best of intentions and for those who were overindulging in the macro nutrient (Proteins, carbohydrates, fats), lowering their fat intake was probably a good idea. The trouble began when people began to cut the entire nutrient out of their diets. Going from low fat to no fat and fake fat -all the while the population got heavier and yes fatter. Not everyone- just those caught in the cracks. By cracks I am speaking of people who listen to the advertisers.

Reading a no fat box of cookies made one feel they could enjoy the treat free of concern of the impact it may have on their health, because low fat or non fat was the new way to be eating for weight loss and heart health. That is what the makers of the no fat cookie wanted you to believe. Yet it was not true. That box of cookies gave no satisfaction and hence the entire box could have been eaten to try to get the sense that something yummy and satisfying was just eaten and it was full of sugar.  Food consists of micro and macro nutrients and the fact is fat is one of the three macro nutrients and the health and well-being of the human body depends on a regular amount of it, the real thing.

How much fat do we need?

Guidelines suggest that 10-30% of your daily calories should come from fat. The World Health Organization recommends a maximum of 30%, whilst other health organizations recommend only 10%. A guideline is around 40g (1.5 ounces) fat per day for women and 60g (2 ounces) fat per day for men.

Nine fat payoffs

Besides making your bum look big, here are nine more productive ways your body utilizes fat.

  • Brain Fats compose 60% of the brain and are essential to brain function, including learning abilities, memory retention and moods. Fats are especially important for pregnant women, since they are integral to fetal brain development.
  • Cells Fatty acids help your cells stay flexible, as well as building cell membranes.
  • Digestion Fats slow down the digestion process so the body has more time to absorb nutrients. Fats help provide a constant level of energy and also keep the body satiated for longer periods of time. Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) can only be absorbed if fat is present.
  • Eyes Fats are essential to eye function
  • Heart 60% of our heart’s energy comes from burning fats. Specific fats are also used to help keep the heart beating in a regular rhythm.
  • Immune System Some fats ease inflammation, helping your metabolism and immune system stay healthy and functioning.
  • Lungs Lung surfactant, which requires a high concentration of saturated fats, enables the lungs to work and keeps them from collapsing.
  • Nerves Fats compose the material that insulates and protects the nerves, isolating electrical impulses and speeding their transmission.
  • Vital Organs Fats cushion and protect your internal organs.

So take another look at your fat intake and let it be from the most natural state possible, this will help eliminate the trans fats without even trying! Look at using butter, ghee, cold water fish, avocado, nuts, eggs with the yolks, coconut oil and olive oil to name a few. Using fat in a balanced manner is the key to a healthy and satisfying diet for life.



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