By: Coach Sammie
Fat is a huge topic these days and there are a lot of questions regarding if fat is good for us or bad for us, what kinds are good or bad for us, how much is good or bad for us, etc. We would be here all day and probably the next fews days if I were to dive into all of that… so for today I’d just like to give you a little understanding of what exactly dietary fat is, the roles it plays in our body, and some healthy fat sources.
Dietary fats are:
Organic molecules made up of carbon and hydrogen elements joined together in long groups. The arrangement of these chains and their interaction with each other determines the fat type. The simplest unit of fat is called a fatty acid.
There are two types of fat, saturated and unsaturated.
The more hydrogen atoms that are bonded to carbon atoms, the more saturated the fat becomes. If hydrogens have filled up all the available bonding spots on the chain of carbon, the fat is SATURATED. This usually results in a solid or semi-solid consistency (ex: butter, coconut oil, or cocoa butter) at room temperature.
If only some hydrogens are bonded to carbon, the fat is UNSATURATED. Unsaturated fats are usually liquids at room temperature. The less the fat is saturated, the more fluid it is. Unsaturated fats are broken down further into two subcategories:
- Monounsaturated fatty acids (only 1 carbon is unsaturated)
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids (more than 1 carbon is unsaturated)
- You’ve probably heard of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids right? These are both polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Roles of dietary fat:
provides us with ENERGY (in fact, fat is the MOST energy-dense macronutrient)
Helps make and balance HORMONES (especially steroid hormones like sex hormones and corticoid hormones)
Forms our CELL MEMBRANES (pretty important for..like.. everything)
Forms our BRAINS and NERVOUS SYSTEM (really really really important)
Helps transport fat soluble VITAMINS (A,D,E,K)
Gives us two fatty acids that we can’t make our own (omega-6 and omega-3)
Best sources of dietary fat:
it should be noted that most dietary fat comes in the form of TRIGLYCERIDES (which is 3 fatty acids attached to one glycerol backbone). The 3 fatty acids are often not the same kind of fatty acids… so that means that most dietary fat sources are made up of a some combination of saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fatty acids.
Example: most people consider egg yolks to be foods rich in saturated fat, yet egg yolks actually contain: 39% saturated fatty acids, 43% monounsaturated fatty acids, and 18% polyunsaturated fatty acids… so in fact eggs yolks are mostly unsaturated.
Remember the Big Picture:
“Humans evolved eating a varied and seasoned diet. We thrive best on a mix of fat types that occur naturally in different types of foods.
We want a relatively equally balanced mix of fat types.
This balance comes naturally if we choose a wide selection of diverse, whole, less-processed foods such as:
Nuts and seeds
Beef, pork, lamb
Olives and extra-virgin olive oil
Take away for today:
Fat is an IMPORTANT and NECESSARY macronutrient that you NEED to include in your daily diet.
Choose WHOLE, DIVERSE, NATURAL sources
Want to know more about fat? Such as:
- Cholesterol (what is it?, how do we control it?)
- Trans Fats (what are they?, why are they bad?, what foods contain them?)
- High fat diets vs. low fat diets
- Fat intake and Cardiovascular health
- Does eating dietary fat make you fat?
Pease reach out to one of us. We would love to sit down and chat with you :)
Berardi, J. Et al. The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. 2018.