“I don’t want to get fat. Why is fat included on my nutrition plan?”
The term ‘fat’ in the health and fitness industry is a dangerous one that often has professionals pulling their hair out. You say the word fat and a lot of people instantly imagine that unwanted tyre around their torso, or that extra layer gained on their thighs due to enjoying their christmas period a little too much. Often, using the word fat triggers negative thoughts and feelings in regards to body image.
But dietary fat actually plays a CRUCIAL role in optimising the function of the human body. Fat improves the formation of cell membranes, supports our nervous system and aids in the absorption of certain vitamins. Furthermore, dietary fat also helps keep skin and hair healthy, provides us with energy, protects our organs as well as insulating the body…… just a few things then!
All with a whopping 9kcal per gram (compared with protein and carbohydrates at 4kcal per gram), this macro nutrient packs one heck of a energetic punch! P.S. don’t be afraid of the calories!!!!!!
Life would be so much less confusing if we could erase everyones memory and reprogram people to refer to dietary fats as FAT and body fat as ADIPOSE. Adipose is actually the correct term for fat (body fat), which very rarely gets used in modern day society. Adipose is necessary as it helps to cushion and insulate the body as well as storing any unused energy (calories). But, as with most things in life, if there is an excess, it can then lead to further health issues to which we’ve all heard of a millions times over.
Dietary fats can be split into four further categories: Trans, Saturated, Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated. Whilst Adipose can be split into two: Subcutaneous and Visceral. So here is an explanation in layman’s terms to differentiate the fats from the fat!
Trans fat: Commonly considered to be the worst type of fat you can consume. A diet high in Trans-fat is proven to raise your cholesterol levels which increases your risk of heart disease. Trans fat occurs in our food due to an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, with the goal of extending shelf life (1, 2). Found in: Deep fat friers, Cakes, Cookies, Pies, Margarine, Donuts, Pizza…… You get the picture!
Saturated fat: Considered to be less healthy than unsaturated fat, but far better than Trans fat. It should still be included within your daily diet, due to the fact that it can enhance your immune system, provide energy and structure to cells, as well as enhancing the function of your liver, brain and lungs. Just be sure to incorporate it in smaller doses than the unsaturated version (3, 4). Found in: Fatty Beef, Lamb, Pork, Poultry with skin, Lard, Butter, Cheese, Other dairy products; which all come under my list of ‘Occasional’ foods to eat.
Monounsaturated: Diets high in monounsaturated fats have been shown to lower bad cholesterol and fat within the blood, whilst also increasing your body’s insulin sensitivity. So they are therefore thought of reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes within humans (5, 6) Found in: Olives, Avocado, Lard, Rapeseed oil, Peanut oil, Nuts, Seeds….. mmmmmm peanut butter.
Polyunsaturated: Hold a different chemical structure to monounsaturated fats but are equally as beneficial. You will have heard the term “Omega 3’s” before. Well Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat, which is proven to help strengthen your heart, improve blood vessel function and reduce blood pressure. (7) Found in: Walnuts, Sunflower seeds, Flax seeds, Chia seeds, Fish, Soybean oil, Corn oil.
Fat within the body (Adipose tissue)
Subcutaneous: Is the fat that sits just beneath your skin. More commonly known as the bit that causes the “bingo wings”, or the “muffin top” or as I previously referred to; that added tyre around your torso. Subcutaneous fat levels are measured in a variety of ways, but most commonly through the use of callipers. This is the type of body fat most commonly analysed by trainers to gauge progress. So as I’ve written about before; for those looking to ‘lose weight’…. you’re actually looking to lose subcutaneous fat.
Visceral: Is the fat stored within your torso which surrounds your organs. This type of fat is a bit more challenging to measure at it requires high tech machines which aren’t always easily accessible. It is arguably more important to have lower levels of visceral than subcutaneous fat as it can have a direct effect on how our hormones function and therefore will increase the risk of various forms of illness and disease.
For more information on how to factor in fats correctly within your diet, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yours in health, Ben.
1: NHS. 2: Mayoclinic. 3: Marcela. 4. American Heart Association. 5. Active IQ- Level 3 in Personal Training. 6. Dr Axe. 7. Heart foundation