There are many things that should be left in the 1980s, with shiny nylon shell suits and bubble perms to name a few, but a completely flawed approach to fat consumption has to be near the top of the list.
Back then, we were led to believe that fat made you fat and low-fat products were flying off the shelves. Thankfully, we have started to move away from this dinosaur dietary outlook and now see fat for what it really is: an essential part of any diet.
WHY WE NEED FAT
Vital for the body to function properly, there are many roles that fat plays in our bodies, including:
1. Transportation of key vitamins. Fat helps the body absorb vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. These vitamins are fat-soluble, which means they can only be absorbed with the help of fats.
2. Construction of cells. Fats give your body what it needs to produce and grow new cells, tissues and hormones. Because fat is high in energy, it is also a great source of fuel for cellular repair.
3. Insulation. Fat tissue, also known as adipose tissue, helps to insulate your body. This heat insulation keeps your body warm when you are exposed to cold temperatures.
4. Waterproofing. Fat in the skin prevents water loss by evaporation and keeps skin looking plump and hydrated.
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
Despite this importance of fat to the successful functioning of our bodies, studies have shown that the British diet is low in essential fatty acids, which could be having an adverse affect on our overall health. Most fatty acids that you require are produced in the body. However, two of them, known as 'essential fatty acids', cannot be produced in the body and must be consumed in your diet. These 'essential fatty acids' are called omega-3 and omega-6 and without them, the functioning of your cardiovascular, reproductive, immune and nervous systems are negatively affected. This is why oily fish, seeds and nuts are excellent sources of fat in your diet.
HOW MUCH FAT IS TOO MUCH?
Currently, the UK Government guidelines recommend that the average level of fat in people’s diet should be about a third, or approximately 33%, and no higher than 35% of their total energy intake. At present, the average intake of fat in the UK is just under 35%. The current UK Government guidelines recommend that the average level of saturated fat in people’s diet should be no higher than 11%, due to it being linked with increased incidence of coronary heart disease.
Although it may seem logical that eating fat would cause fat to accumulate in the body, in reality the process is not that straightforward. Fat storage is regulated by a number of hormones, including insulin. Insulin is released in response to rising blood sugar levels, which results from carbohydrate consumption, not fat consumption. Excess calories, irrespective of their source, contribute to increases in body fat.
FAT AND WEIGHT LOSS
Containing 9 kcal per gram, fat is more than double as energy dense as carbohydrate or protein. So you may be scratching your head as to how you can continue to include fat in your diet when adhering to a calorie deficit. Reducing your fat intake can help to create a calorie deficit which is important for weight loss, but there is one significant disadvantage to this when operating in a deficit: satiety. A low fat diet has a low satiety level which means you may be left feeling hungry more often. There’s also a risk that through choosing low-fat foods, you inadvertently end up increasing your sugar intake as many low-fat foods are high in sugar.
The key takeaway from this is that while reducing fat intake can help to create a calorie deficit, it's still important to be conscious of getting the overall balance of your diet right, rather than focusing on cutting out fat altogether. Instead of running away from high fat foods like avocados, nuts and seeds, we should be viewing them as a very nutrient dense and valuable source of healthy fats and nutrients.
Fat is important to include in your diet as it helps your body absorb essential vitamins, make cells and hormones that help your body work the way they should, stay warm and keep your skin looking healthy. Essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 play an important role in the proper functioning of your cardiovascular, reproductive, immune and nervous systems. But when you eat more fat than your body needs, the excess is turned into body fat. Reducing your fat intake can help to create a calorie deficit which is important for weight loss. However, stay away from products that praise they are low-fat as you'll be left feeling hungry more often and be consuming excess sugar.
If you would like support in your weight loss journey, book your free support session with me today.
As an award-winning weight loss coach and fitness trainer, I help high achieving women reach optimal health without fat diets or severe restrictions. You can learn more about my services here.