Dietary fats have 9 calories per gram, more than carbohydrates and protein, and should be your bodies fuel of choice. Contrary to the myths of the media, eating fat will not make you fat, unless of course if you have insulin surging through your system. Fat does not cause an insulin response like carbohydrates do, so the fat is not transported into other cells, including your fat cells. The digestive system breaks down dietary fat into free fatty acids to be readily used for energy. Because fat isn’t being guided into cells by insulin, it allows stored fat (adipose tissue) to be released into the blood stream and out of your ‘problem areas’. The average person might think that the amount of healthy fats required for optimal functioning is high. Consuming between 50 and 150 grams of fat in a day (relative to total daily calories being between 1,500 and 3,000) is not going to make you fat, unless, you are also consuming excess carbohydrates. A high fat, moderate carb, moderate protein diet will balance your hormones, regulate your weight, and reduce your hunger levels.
How Much Fat Do You Need?
After calculating your protein and carbohydrate needs, (see the previous two newsletters, or ask me for help!) you are going to fill the rest of your calorie requirements with fats. Take your protein intake in grams, multiply that by 4 to get calories from protein and take your carbohydrate intake in grams, and multiply that by 4 to get calories from carbohydrates. Add together your protein and carb calories, then subtract that from your total daily caloric needs. What is left over is how many calories you need to get from fat. Divide that number of calories by 9 to see how many grams of fat you need.
Now you know the quantity of fats you need, lets discuss the quality. Fats are broken down into three categories; saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. For simplicity, just know that you need a balance of the types of fats, including getting enough (but not too much) saturated fat into your diet! The very worst type of fat is the unnatural trans fats found in fast food, fried foods and junk foods. Avoid eating this crap and you wont have to think twice about trans fats. The best type of fat is omega 3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA, fatty acids that are absolutely essential to grow and maintain brain function throughout life. Taking a fish oil supplement is a excellent idea for reducing inflammation, encouraging healing and raising immunity.
What to Include in Your Diet?
A balance of fats from meats, nuts, healthy vegetables and trace amounts from dressings and cooking will be beneficial for your satiety, especially when eating with high protein foods. Top quality meats are always preferred, look for grass fed, organic, local beef, chicken, turkey and pork at community health food shops or at eatwild.com. These choices can get expensive, especially when eating meats 5 to 7 days a week. If your budget wont allow for these options, getting healthy cuts of regular grocery chain meats is still a good choice.
Nuts and Seeds should be enjoyed in your diet on a regular basis. Almonds, cashews, pistachios, brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts can be found anywhere and can be eaten by the handful! Be sure to avoid peanuts, as they have a higher amount of carbohydrates and have a less than favorable ratio of healthy fats. Try making your own trail mix with a few type of nuts, bits of dark chocolate, and dried cranberries. Raw, unsalted nuts are easiest on your digestion and can be used in any recipe.
Vegetables are generally low in fats, but eating a large healthy salad can be an easy way to add fats to your diet. Sprinkle your salad with sunflower seeds or sliced almonds. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil or balsamic vinegar over your greens, or try your hand at making your own yogurt based dressings.