Fats are misunderstood by most Americans and people typically fall in one of two categories as a result: either they are convinced that fat is the enemy and so they avoid it at all costs, or they pay little attention to how they eat and their diets are filled with bad fats and processed carbs. Both errors have led to the significant health crisis we’re facing today.
More than two-thirds of the United States population is overweight and a third is considered obese. Ironically, the issue here is not that people eat too much fat, but instead they do not have balanced diets that contain the right proportions of nutrients, including fats. As with carbohydrates and proteins, the main focus in developing a healthy understanding of nutrition is learning to consume the right kinds of fats from the right sources.
FATS: THE BEST & WORST
We discussed fats in great detail earlier in the program because we wanted you to let 50% of your daily calories come from good, healthy fats. So, while we won’t go into extensive detail here, reminding you of some of the key truths about fats and helping you think about the long-term role that fats play in your diet is important. Since our goal is to help you shift your lifestyle and way of eating so that you can enjoy the foods you eat and get the best benefits from your nutrition possible, some general guidelines to follow regarding good and bad fats are as follows:
Ironically, the best and worst fats can come from the same types of sources. For example, fats from properly fed animals are extremely good for you while the same fats from commercial animals can be very harmful for your health. If you do not have convictions against eating meat, then continuing to buy quality meats and including them in your regular diet will allow you to get the best benefit of fats from your food. Remember to stay away from poorly sourced and fed meats as they not only fail to deliver the best fats to your diet but also introduce additional health risks.
Saturated fats have developed a bad reputation, which is undeserved because not all saturated fats are bad. Unfortunately, we have grouped all saturated fats together and made them an enemy, even if they come from the right sources. When you look at saturated fat, remember that it is a vital building block of hormones and hormone-like substances used by our bodies. We need saturated fats to build healthy cells and preserve the functionality of our organs. So, as long as you get good, quality saturated fats from sources like coconut oil, grass-fed meat, and grass-fed butter, you can still benefit from this needed nutrient.
Unsaturated & Trans Fats
Unsaturated fats are typically praised as being the healthier source of fats. While this can be true for certain sources, like olive oil, nuts, fish, and avocado, the most common source of unsaturated fats is found in the vegetable oils commonly used in America today. These oils, which include canola oil, soybean oil, and corn oil, are not healthy choices at all. In addition, these oils are often either partially or completely hydrogenated and included as a part of processed foods. As a result, these foods are typically high in trans fats, are the worst type of fat. For optimal health, eat Monounsaturated fats found in olive oil and avocado and Polyunsaturated Omega-3 fats found in fish, nuts and grass-fed meats. Avoid the Polyunsaturated Omega-6 fats found in ‘vegetable oil,’ corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil, etc. Never eat anything with ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ oil as these are trans fats.
THE BENEFITS OF GOOD FAT
Remember that fat plays an important role in supporting our health. Fats have a direct impact on our skin, hair and nails, organs, the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, hormones, cardiovascular function, inflammatory balance, and even brain function.
Since the majority of Americans do not consume enough of the good fats, there has been a rise in the number of disorders and diseases related to essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiencies. The frequency with which we eat hydrogenated oils and fats that can alter the structure of our cells only exacerbates these diseases. That alone should be one more reason to avoid the processed foods that contain them.
In order to avoid fat deficiencies and the risks associated with them, we recommend that people not only get good quality fats in their diet, but that they also supplement with flaxseed, chia seed, or fish oil in order to increase the EFAs in their diet. In addition, you should be getting plenty of vitamin E, which is an important fat-soluble vitamin. To make sure you get enough good, quality fats in your diet, continue to refer to the foods listed in your “Good Fats” list from earlier in the program.
THE RIGHT SOURCE OF CALORIES
With this in mind, our recommendation for long-term fat consumption is to get at least 30-50% of your total calories from good, healthy fats, keeping in mind that each gram of fat yields about 9 calories. Despite the bad information that has been perpetuated for years about restricting fat in order to lose weight, your percentage of total calories from fat will actually need to increase if you decide to go on a calorie-restricted diet for weight loss. In fact, some people actually benefit from a Ketogenic diet, consuming as much as 75% of calories from fat while slightly reducing protein and nearly eliminating carbs. However, this should only be attempted under the direction of a professional.
For most, it will be important to keep your protein intake of at least 25% as part of your healthy lifestyle. So, significant limitation should be on carbohydrates if trying to restrict calories. Having said that, most people are not eating enough total calories to maintain a healthy metabolism and build more lean muscle, so calorie reduction should not be seen as the “go-to” solution for maintaining health or weight loss without a few caveats.
It may seem strange, but for many, it will take eating more calories in order to increase your metabolism through muscle building in order to lose the body fat you want. If you starve yourself, your body will slow its your muscle mass wither away in an attempt to lose weight. This is a guarantee for failure and regaining more weight and body fat. So, eating enough calories to provide your body with the energy it needs while not sending it into deprivation mode is critical here. Remember that you’re building new habits, so it may take some time to figure out the exact balance you need for your body.
One final note on fats, especially as we consider how fats play a role in our diets. A common danger that comes from trying to avoid fat is opting for low-fat foods. Unfortunately, most low- fat foods are very high in sugar and are not good at satisfying hunger because they lack the fat needed to reduce hunger cues. As a result, many people will actually overeat these low-fat foods since fat is one of the most important ingredients for satiation. This results in empty calories and additional challenges in trying to lose weight and have a healthy, balanced diet.
The best path forward is to shift out of the mindset that avoids fats and views them as a negative part of one’s diet. Instead, view fats as a great source of fuel that can help you feel satisfied and energetic. Remember, fats from good, quality sources are actually your friend in weight loss, increasing metabolism, and developing a long-term nutrition plan.
To quickly summarize the information we’ve provided about carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, we’ve provided the following charts to help you navigate the percentages of each that should be included in your diet on a daily basis:
metabolism in order to preserve energy, which is counterproductive for overall fat burning and weight loss. The last thing you want to do is see
To establish the correct amount of total calories each day, additional factors must be considered,such as activity level, amount of weight that needs to be lost, and what a proper weight for your body size should be. In the next document of your guide, we will help you figure out how to calculate your proper target weight, then you can determine how many calories to eat using the chart above based on your target weight.