Learn to Love Fats & Enjoy (Most) Carbs
Why We Need Fats In Our Diet
Fats are a high-energy fuel source and a necessary macronutrient for all of us. They satisfy hunger, help sustain energy for longer periods of time and serve as our go-to fuel when exercising. People who remove fat from their meals get very hungry throughout the day.
Three Types of Fats, Different Health Effects
- Unsaturated fat is typically considered the healthiest of the three types of fats as it provides health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, strengthening the cell membrane, and facilitating storage of vitamins A, D, E, and K. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature; the best source comes from plants such as avocado oil or olive oil.
- Saturated fat can be associated with negative health effects for some genetically susceptible individuals, but these fats don’t always deserve the bad reputation commonly associated with them. The difference often lies in genetics and what other macronutrients an individual is consuming. If a diet is low in processed foods, sugars and simple carbohydrates, properly sourced, high quality saturated fats can be a beneficial part of a healthy diet.
- Trans fat (aka trans fatty acids) is the fat you want to keep out of your diet. Trans fats are found in all processed foods. On a food label, trans fats go by many names including “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated.”
What about Essential Fatty Acids?
Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids, meaning they contain a unique chemical structure. When it comes to your health, EFAs are absolutely essential to a number of functions in the body. They play a crucial role in fetal brain development, provide protective benefits for the heart and nerve tissue as we age, and reduce inflammation. EFAs are found in fish, walnuts and flaxseed among other foods.
And What About Carbs?
Carbohydrates are another essential macronutrient. In the body, carbs are converted into different sugars, making them a necessary fuel source, but if we consume to many carbs they will convert to fat. For example, glycogen is the fuel for muscles to work hard during exercise. Glucose is the fuel source for the brain (though much of the brain can also run on ketones). Your body needs some carbs, but of all the macronutrients they are typically the group we often need to limit.
Fruits, vegetables, and legumes are sources of carbohydrates that provide necessary vitamins and minerals. Whole grains such as oats, whole wheat, and barley also contain carbs. The food source of your carbohydrates and how it acts in the body is important. Some carbohydrates, like cooked and cooled rice, are slower-acting–they do not rapidly spike blood sugar levels, leading to that ‘crash’ feeling.
What does give you that crash and burn feeling? Carbohydrates from simple sugars, like sucrose, which is found in white table sugar and is added to many packaged foods and baked goods. This is the sugar you want to minimize, if not eliminate from your diet. Whether it’s a blueberry muffin or a candy bar disguised as a protein bar…the villain among carbs is found in packaged and processed foods.
Most Valuable Nutrition Tip
The most valuable nutrition tips you could follow for any meal is this:
- Include a source of healthy fat (avocado or Extra Virgin Olive Oil for example), a protein, and a rainbow of veggies on your plate with each meal.
- Make your first meal of the day inclusive of healthy fats and protein as opposed to carbohydrate laden typical breakfast foods.
- Treat animal protein as a condiment, not a main portion of your meal and enjoy some days plant-based only.
If you are unsure of how to plan the best diet for you, one that provides all that you need and that you enjoy eating, consider working with our holistic nutritionist Emily Maude or one of our Naturopathic Doctors in our Calgary clinic. A holistic practitioner can serve as an excellent health care partner to help you navigate the nutrition and food journey.