How to choose healthy fats for better health
Fats are an essential part of a healthy balanced diet. However, not all fats are created equal. It’s important to choose healthy fats and limit the amount of unhealthy fat sources associated with several health issues.
What is fat?
Fat is one of the three macronutrients necessary for energy production. It is an important storage in the body. One gram of dietary fat can produce 9 calories against 4 calories for carbs and proteins. Which make fats the preferred energy storage form of the body.
Dietary fats breakdown into fatty acids that group in three categories. They differ by their chemical structure:
– Saturated fats: are solid in room temperature. They are found mainly in animal food such as red meat, whole milk diary products and eggs. Tropical oils like coconut and palm oils are plant source of saturated fats.
– Unsaturated fats: are liquid at room temperature. They come mainly from plant foods like vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. They also can be found in fatty fish like salmon and sardines. Unsaturated fats are essential fatty acids that must be obtained from the diet.
– Trans-fats: they are mainly found in industrial and ultra-processed products. They can be found in deep fried foods, baked foods and frozen meals. Trans fats can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health problems. They have been banned in countries like Canada and the United States.
What are healthy fats benefits?
Healthy dietary fats are source of fatty acids that are essential to many body functions. They are required for processes like:
– Energy storage: Fats are an important source of fuel for your body, especially during exercise.
– Organ protection: Visceral fats protect organs like heart, kidneys and liver, from damage. They also help in temperature regulation to keep organs warm.
– Nutrient absorption: Fats help the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K that fat-soluble vitamins. These vitamins play a vital role in many functions, including vision, bone health, and blood clotting.
– Brain health: Fats are essential for brain function. They help form the myelin sheath and produce neurotransmitters.
– Hormones production: Fats are essential for the production of hormones, such as testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. These hormones play a role in many functions, including reproduction, metabolism, and mood regulation.
– Feeling full: Fats can help you feel full. They are digested more slowly than carbohydrates and protein. This means that you will feel full for longer after eating a meal that contains fat.
How much fat do we need?
The amount of fat you need depends on your age, sex, and activity level. The type of fat you eat is more significant for health than the total amount of fat you eat in the long term.
It’s important to get the right balance of saturated and unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are typically considered to be more beneficial for health than saturated fats. Although studies have not definitively concluded that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease, some research suggests that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat may reduce the risk of heart disease. Choosing healthy unsaturated fats can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
How to get healthy fats with the Plate Method?
The plate method is a visual dietary guideline for a balanced diet. The plate is composed of proteins, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Healthy fats can be included in any section of the plate method.
Based on the Plate Method, you can get your healthy fats from animal sources such as lean meat, fatty fish, as well as plant sources such as nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. The plate method recommends limiting the amount of food containing unsaturated fats and avoiding trans fats from ultra-processed foods.
JustaPlate helps track fats type in a simple way. The app breaks down the fats sources into different food categories including fatty fish, diary and eggs, tropical oils, nuts and seeds. These fat sources can be tracked and rendered into different fat type (unsaturated, saturated and trans).
Eating healthy fats in moderation should be part of a balanced healthy diet. Choose your fat sources from a variety of foods to improve your health.