Dietary fat is always in the head lines, for all of the wrong reasons. Whether it’s low fat diets, ketogenic, high fat diets, the fitness and diet industry seem to have an unnecessary obsession with dietary fat that just won’t die.
What is Fat?
Firstly, dietary fat is a nutrient that is consumed in the food that you eat and contains essential fatty acids.
Fat is a major source of energy in the diet, providing 9 calories per gram, more than twice the number provided by carbohydrates or protein which is why it has received a bad wrap in recent years.
Although dietary fat is more energy dense than the other macronutrients, it is different than body fat which is fat (adipose tissue) stored on your body.
Therefore, dietary fat is not inherently ‘fattening’ – too many calories are.
Why you shouldn’t go ‘low fat’.
Although low fat diets are one strategy to decrease total energy intake, as mentioned, dietary fat contains essential fatty acids. Failing to eat adequate amounts of dietary fat may lead to the following health complications:
– Impaired growth and development.
– Decreased energy (fat is the most concentrated source of energy).
– Impaired vitamin absorption ( like vitamins A, D, E, K, and carotenoids).
– Decreased cushioning for the organs.
– Impaired maintenance of cell membranes.
The key takeaway here is that an extremely low fat diet is neither healthy nor necessary for fat loss.
Are All Fats The Same?
It is important to understand that not all fats are the same.
There are three types of fat:
1. Saturated fats.
These fats are hard at room temperature and include
meat, buxer, lard, and cream.
Unsaturated fats can be broken down into two subcategories:
– Polyunsaturated: seafood, soybean oil.
– Monounsaturated: avocado, nuts, olive, canola oils.
3. Trans fats.
Now, these are the guys you need to be careful of and eat with caution.
Trans fats are artificial, that is, they are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.
The primary dietary source for trans fats in processed food is “partially hydrogenated oils.”Hydrogenated, and include baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, and margarine
Saturated fats and unsaturated fats are indeed healthy sources of dietary fat, and should comprise the vast majority of your fat intake, with trans fats being consumed sparingly.
Keep an eye out on the trans fat content in deep-fried fast foods and takeaways, limit manufactured biscuits, cakes and pies, cut the visible fat off meat and remove the skin from chicken etc.
So how much fat should I consume to lose fat?
Despite the recent hyperbole surrounding high fat diets for body composition, it is important to remember that energy intake is the primary driver of weight management, not specific necessarily macronutrient intake.
When in a caloric deficit (less calories consumed than body maintenance) reductions in energy intake should firstly come from carbohydrates with decreases in fat intake coming second, once carbohydrate intake is relatively low.
As a rule of thumb, anywhere from 20-35% of total calorie intake should come from dietary fat, and this should be dictated by preference and tolerance to carbohydrates.
Extremely low fat diets can lead to health complications, more specifically endocrine issues, and excessively high fat intakes compromise the other macronutrients which each play a unique metabolic role in the body.
The Take Aways:
- Don’t cut eliminate fat intake.
- Consume between 20-35% of your total calories from fat – dictated by preference and tolerance.
- Consume a variety of fat sources.
- Keep a lid on trans fat intake.