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The Skinny on Fat

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With the exception of the Paleo diet, fat has been given a nasty reputation in the nutrition world.  From the time we were kids, we were taught some version of the USDA Nutrition Pyramid that was published in 1992.  The next update of the pyramid was 13 years later in 2005, where fats were still demonized.  To say that the USDA pyramid is out of touch and behind the times is an understatement.usda_food_pyramid

The Food Pyramid published in 1992

newfoodpyramid

The updated “MyPyramid” published in 2005

But like carbs, fat is neither “good” nor “bad.”  Fat is essential for growth, development, brain function, and energy.  Like carbs, too much fat can leave you feeling lethargic, unfocused and with more pounds than we’d like.  But in balance, it can be a powerful nutrient.

What is fat and Why do I need it?

Like we discussed in our last article, if your body was a car, fat would be the computer that is responsible for everything that happens in between the bumpers.  Without it, the car won’t start, won’t move forward when you hit the gas, and the lights won’t go on when you flip the switch.  Plain and simple, your body, like the car, can’t function without the computer.  

What kinds of fat are there?

There are three types of fat which you should know about:

Saturated fats are found primarily in animal sources like meat, egg yolks, yogurt, cheese, butter, milk. This type of fat is often solid at room temperature.

Unsaturated fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are typically found in plant food sources and are usually liquid at room temperature. Common food sources include olive and canola oil, avocados, fish, almonds, soybeans and flaxseed.

Trans fat has recently been added to the nutrition labels of most products. Trans fatty acids are created (naturally or man-made) when an unsaturated fat is made into a solid. Doughnuts, cookies, crackers, muffins, pies and cakes are examples of foods that may contain trans fat.

How much should I eat and how do I measure it?

As with the other macronutrients, some of you will respond to fat very favorably, and others not as favorably.  Each of us is unique and will have different needs.

As a general rule of thumb, you should consume roughly 35% of your body weight in grams.  So if you weigh 200 lbs, you should be eating about 70g of fat. (200 x 35% = 70).  Remember, this is a starting point, not a hard and fast rule.

As with protein and carbs, using a food scale is the most accurate and cost effective way to measure.  They are available on Amazon or any store that sells kitchen tools.  

When it comes to fats that come out of a package, it is best to use the nutrition label. (i.e. sweets, chocolate, etc.)   In the absence of a scale or nutrition label, we have created multiple eyeball measurements to help.  A tablespoon for oils and a golf ball for nut butter are both easy ways to help measure fats.  Below are several picture references.

tbsp-olive-oil

1 tablespoon of oil

peanut-butter-golf

2 tablespoons of peanut butter
15g-of-fat

How do you know if you are eating too little fat?

  1. Dry Skin
  2. Mood Swings
  3. You can’t lose weight
  4. Achy Joints

Other Important Stuff about Fat

  1. Every gram of fat = 9 cals of energy (this is more than 2x the amount of energy provided by 1g of protein or 1g of carbohydrate)
  2. Vitamin A, D, E, and K are fat soluble vitamins.  This means they cannot be absorbed without enough dietary fat.
  3. Fats are responsible for proper hormone cycles and regulate the body’s production of the sex hormones.  
  4. Fat also helps build the brain, as it provides the structural components of the various cell membranes found in the brain. It also creates the structural components for myelin, which is a fatty insulating sheath which surrounds the various nerve fibers, helping them carry messages more quickly.

If you are struggling to understand how to apply all the information to your own goals, I can help you develop a custom plan that will be tailored specific to your body, your goals, and your schedule and lifestyle.  We will discuss how much fat you should be eating and how to even incorporate fats you haven’t eaten in ages into your everyday eating. All you need to do is complete the assessment questionnaire.  

This will help me learn a little about where you are and what’s slowing you down, where you’d like to go, and how I can help you get there.  Once you complete the questionnaire, I will be in touch to discuss your answers and decide what to do next.

In the meantime, stayed tuned for last article in the series where I will discuss the #1 Nutrition Myth.