Dietary fats have many important roles to play in keeping us healthy and are essential for health and wellness.

Dietary fats make and balance hormones; construct cell membranes; transport fat-soluble vitamins, and form our brain and nervous system.

It also provides us with an energy source – in fact it is the most energy dense macronutrient at 9 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram of protein or carbohydrate – one of the reasons you need to control for the amount of fat you consume if you are in a fat-loss phase!  Those who are massing for body composition goals use fat as a convenient source of calories since it reduces the volume of food required. 

TYPES OF FAT

Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature and can be found in beef, pork, and lamb.  Eggs and full fat dairy are also sources as well as coconut and cacao.  These fats have in the past received a bad rap for causing heart disease but the relationship between saturated fat consumption and unhealthy cholesterol levels is more complex than previously thought and some saturated fat can be a healthy part of your diet in balance with the other types of fat.

Unsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature and include two types.  Monounsaturated fatty acids which include nuts, olives and olive oil, chicken and duck fat and polyunsaturated fatty acids which include chia seeds, fish, flaxseed and seeds.

There are two essential fatty acids that we can’t make on our own, the omega-3 and omega-6 fats.  These fats play a critical role in keeping your cell membranes healthy and are important for cardiovascular and nervous system functioning.  Sources include fish and fish oil as well as plant sources like flax, chia, hemp and walnuts.

Trans fats are produced from industrial fat processing and commercial food production and are now recognised as being harmful to human health.  Trans fats are were banned from food products in 2015 and form no part of a healthy diet.

Fats are essential for health and it is important to choose a variety of fats from diverse and less-processed sources and to consider supplementing the essential fatty acids if our diets lack adequate sources of these.

By Coach Lisa

Photo credit: Sorin Gheorghita

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