The Facts About Fats

Gentle Nutrition Tips

Have you been bombarded with nutrition information on social media, television, or anywhere else? Chances are, you have! One topic you may see often is about dietary fats, or the fats we consume through foods. You may also be wondering what are they, why are they important, and what kind of foods contain them. If so, it is your lucky day because this post will strive to answer all your burning questions about fats! 

There are three macronutrients that provide us energy in the form of calories; carbohydrates, proteins, and FATS! All three macronutrients are essential to give our bodies energy to move and do the things we love, all while performing processes like breathing and digestion that keep us alive. 

Contrary to popular belief, eating “fat free” foods is not the epitome of health, nor does it equate to “calorie free”. To further break down fats in general, it is also important to note the different types of fats and the role they plan within our body system and overall satiety (how satisfied we are during and after meal times). Below you will find a breakdown of the different types of fats, what foods they are found in, and some gentle nutrition tips on empowering yourself to understand dietary fats!

***Disclaimer- This blog post is not meant to substitute as individualized medical advice, and it is always important to seek personal advice about health from medical professionals. The intent of this post is to simply specify the differences between dietary fats, and provide gentle nutrition tips that explain evidenced based research findings.***

Saturated Fat- fats that are naturally solid at room temperature. (Think virgin coconut oil or butter.)

What foods have saturated fat?

  • Animal products
    • Dairy: cream, butter, whole milk, coffee creamer
    • Meat: beef, lamb, bacon, burgers, etc
    • Coconut Oils
  • Processed foods
    • Processed meats: hot dogs, bologna, sausage, bacon
    • Processed packaged foods: cookies, cakes, pies, biscuits 

Gentle Nutrition Tips for Saturated aFats:

It is important to be mindful of these fats in our diet and consume them in moderation, as studies have shown if the primary consumption of dietary fats are from sources high in saturated fats- this could potentially lead to an increased risk for heart disease. However, moderately doesn’t mean not at all. It is important to understand that restriction or a restrictive mentality often leads to over eating, poor relationships with food, and potentially disordered eating patterns. While it is almost impossible to assume that unsaturated fat sources could be the only sources of foods you are consuming, it is noteworthy to understand that I have never felt the same after eating a carrot as I have ice cream…and it is because I shouldn’t! Our bodies receive totally different nutrients and signals when we eat foods with fats versus not. And that is ok!

If I want some ideas that are lower in Saturated Fats, what could I choose?

  • Animal Products
    • Dairy choices: skim milk, greek yogurt, cheese made from lower fat milk.
    • Lean cuts of meat: Chicken breast, pork loin, turkey breast/loin
    • Fish and seafood
  • Try to snack on more whole food options!
    • Hummus with your favorite dippers!
      • Pro tip: chop up celery, carrots, peppers, cucumbers or any of your favorite veggies in the beginning of the week so they are easily accessible when your life gets busy!
    • Apple slices with peanut butter
  • If you’re on the go- aim for convenience meals that still whole foods!

Unsaturated Fats- oils, wild caught fish, nuts, seeds + more! There are two main types of unsaturated fats called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

What foods have monounsaturated and polyunsaturated acids?

  • Olive oil
    • Experiment with olive oil! Some of my favorite ways to use it are to make homemade salad dressings (can be as simple as some olive oil and vinegar on your greens!), roast veggies with olive oil, or a dizzle on avocado toast with whole grain bread
  • Avocado/Avocado Oil
    • There are so many ways to incorporate avocado! Smash it on whole grain toast, chop it up and add to salads, make some homemade guacamole, or try avo slices on scrambled eggs.
  • Nuts and seeds: peanuts, almonds, cashews
    • Nut butters are a great way to get in some healthy fats. Try incorporating a tablespoon into smoothies, or spread it on a whole grain toast or english muffin. I like having nut butter with fruit slices as well!

Omega 3 fatty acids- The holy grail of unsaturated fats and a sub type of polyunsaturated fats. This type of fat is essential, meaning although it is vital for our health, our body does not make it naturally so we must get this through out diet.

Omega 3 fatty acids

What foods have omega 3 fatty acids?

  • Fatty fish like salmon and tuna!
    • Canned tuna is a price-effective way to get protein and healthy fats! I like to combine salt, pepper, tuna, and ½ an avocado to make a simple tuna salad! Enjoy it with whole grain crackers, whole grain toast, or just plain!
  • Walnuts
    • These are delicious on salads or just to snack on.
  • Chia and Flax seeds
    • Try adding these to smoothies or your oatmeal! Get creative with yummy ways to incorporate these into your meals.

Gentle Nutrition Tips for Unsaturated Fat

Research shows that consumption of unsaturated fats may help lower your risk for certain chronic diseases. Unsaturated fats, which tend to be liquid at room temperature and mostly plant based, are considered beneficial fats because they have been shown to ease inflammation, improve blood cholesterol levels, and play a number of other beneficial roles within in the body. Further, you may be wondering, what the heck is the difference between omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids (both polyunsaturated fats)?! Both are essential parts of our diet and both are polyunsaturated fatty acids, but omega 3 fatty acids are thought to be ANTI-inflammatory, and omega 6 fatty acids are thought to be PRO-inflammatory. Omega 6 fatty acids are found in foods like sunflower oil, corn oil, and soybean oil, and all of these are found in processed, packaged foods like crackers and cakes. The recommended ratio in the diet is 3:1 omega 6 to omega 3, but typically in the western diet people consume 10:1 omega 6 to omega 3. Now, there is no need to obsess over these numbers, but rather the focus should be on the foods themselves over the numerical values. As always, it is always about BALANCE 🙂

Conclusion: As a dietitian, my number one goal when working with a client is to empower them with tools that improve their health and change their life. My goal is to never create shame or fear around food, however, there is something to understanding foods instead of just taking them at culture’s face value of “good” or “bad”. Understanding the science and roles foods play within the body, like dietary fats, can help you become an empowered consumer and create a more knowledgeable food decisions. Want to learn more or need help with your own individualized nutrition needs? Reach out to me! I’d love to chat.

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