Fats are by far the most controversial macronutrient of nutrition. Research is showing new information on a regular basis. Some of the studies are well conducted and some are not. The bad thing is it is hard to tell form the media reports which is which. Things that seem obvious from observations of large groups of people over time are often not supported in clinical trials. The reasons for these discrepancies are that in our lives we don’t eat one thing and we don’t do the same things every day. So I will attempt to summarize what I have learned about dietary fat. Please note that this is the most widely accepted science not absolute facts. If you had other ideas or questions feel free to ask and I will answer the best I can.
- Fats are an essential part of your diet and should compose between 10% and 35% of your calories in a day. Please note this is calories not grams. Fat has almost twice the calories per gram as any other food source.
- Hydrogenated oils and man made trans fats are bad, try to avoid them. Note that some meats and most dairy products have naturally occurring trans fats in them. Don’t worry to much about them they don’t seem as bad as the man made ones. Look for the phrase hydrogenated of partially hydrogenated on the label. If it says this avoid it.
- Saturated fat increases the amount of LDL in the blood. This LDL also seems to be easier to oxidize which means turned into the bad stuff that damages the arteries. However, it should be noted that it does raise the levels of HDL as well which could be a good thing. Some studies indicate that the effects of increased saturated fat intake can be reversed by regular aerobic exercise. But the studies are small.
- Mono unsaturated fats seem to improve the blood lipids as well as reduce the risk of heart attack.
- Poly unsaturated fats two main types are omega3 and 6. We eat plenty of omega 6 and not enough 3. The ideal ratio is 1:1 while the accepted is less than 4 to 1. We actually eat about 15:1. Solid evidence shows that a high ratio can cause damage. So try to eat more omega3’s and less sixes. Omega 6 is vegetable oil while omega 3 is fish oil. Try to eat more fish, take an omega 3 supplement. Replace some of the vegetable oil with olive oil.
Bottom line is unsaturated fats are better for you than saturated fats. Fats are not bad for you in moderation. Try to increase your intake of omega3 and lower your omega6. My next topic is diets.