As one of my old professors used to say, “It’s not the no fat diet, it’s the right fat diet.” This is extremely important to remember. You’d be surprised about how many people believe/say they need to cut out all fats when they are starting a new diet. This couldn’t be further from the truth! These people are correct about cutting fats out, but not all of them. The bad fats, a.k.a. trans fatty acids and an abundance of saturated fats, are the ones that need the big ol’ boot out the door.

Dietary fats are just one type of lipid and play many roles in the human body. Let’s name a few functions of fats, shall we?

– They are stored in adipose (fat) cells and provide energy for the body. Each gram of fat provides 9 calories. This is more than protein and carbs, which only supply 4 calories per gram.

– They make up the myelin sheath around your nerves and help to protect it and maintain normal neurological signaling.

– They help make cholesterol, which is used to produce hormones, which you’ll need to build muscle!

– They help your intestines absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

– They also are used to make the phospholipid bilayer that makes up the walls of every cell in your body!

In short, they are pretty damn important. The healthy fats are also called essential fatty acids, which means your body cannot make them, so you need to provide them!

The first type of fat is unsaturated fat (omega 3). Unsaturated fats are very beneficial. The two “healthy” subdivisions are:

Monounsaturated fats, which are found in:

  • Olive oil, black currant seed oil, avocados, peanut butter, nuts and seeds

Polyunsaturated fats, which are found in:

  • Sunflower and flaxseed oils, black currant seed oil, flax seeds, walnuts and fatty fish

How about saturated fats? In short, saturated fats are found in animal products, including red meat, milk and cheese.

The American Heart Association recommends that a normal diet contain 20-35% of daily calories of fat and limiting saturated fats to 5-6% or less. Your total dietary fat will vary depending on your macronutrient breakdown, the type of diet you are running and your lifestyle. People doing high fat diets will have this percent much higher, but made of mostly mono and polyunsaturated fats. Do not attempt a high fat diet on your own unless you are well educated in nutrition or have help from your doctor or nutritionist. High fat diets are complex and you do not want to be deficient in any nutrients/vitamins, nor be eating the wrong amounts of macronutrients. Eating higher unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can also lower the risk of heart diseases.

Finally, we come to trans fatty acids. These are the ones to avoid! They come in different forms, but are often found as partially hydrogenated oils, making them able to withstand heat, which is why they are used for deep-frying food. They are also found in small amounts in beef fat and dairy products. These fats create plaque in arteries contributing to heart disease, strokes and diabetes. They also increase inflammation as well as raise your bad cholesterol levels (LDLs) and decrease your good cholesterol levels (HDLs) that you’ll see on your blood exams.

Fun Fact of the Day! 

Sorry to all my Italians out there. Let alone good olive oil being expensive; avoid cooking your food with olive oil. Certain oils, such as olive oil, have low heat thresholds and denature the oil into free radicals, which can destroy cells in your body. Essentially, it’s now useless and hazardous to you. Simply use it on your vegetables or various foods after they are cooked as a dressing. Coconut oil has a higher heat threshold and is good for cooking to around 500 degrees. It is higher in saturated fats, but be aware of your fat ratios and it will tie into your diet perfectly, or look up other healthy oils that have a high heat tolerance to use for cooking.

I hope this helps give you a better perspective of your diet. If you have any further questions, feel free to message me. Happy eating!

Written by Dr. Matt Antonelli of Lakeside Sports Chiropractic Center and Motorsports Rehab