Fat Facts: Things You Should Know

by | Mar 3, 2024 | Straight Talk

Here in the U.S. we’ve been obsessed with fat-free and low fat diets for decades, yet 2/3 of us are overweight or obese.  So what should we know about fat in our diet?  Why do we refer to fats in the plural?  Are some better than others?

Why is fat important to include in our diets? Well, our bodies rely on fat as one of the three macronutrients we get from food, alongside protein and carbohydrates.  It insulates our bodies, protects our organs and is a source of fatty acids that our bodies can’t make.  It acts to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and serves our bodies as a source of energy, as well as a component of cell walls. 

In order to understand where we get the fats we eat and what role these different fats play in our overall health, let’s do a quick overview. 

Polyunsaturated fats (including Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids) is one of the good guys.  It’s found in walnuts, sunflower seeds, fish and some plant oils.  Polyunsaturated fats are one of the fats that the body needs but can’t make on its own.  These fats are important for brain heath, cell growth, and they help reduce bad cholesterol in the blood.   

Monounsaturated fats, another one of the good guys, come from plant oils and are also found in avocados, seeds and nuts.  The best way to identify them is that they remains liquid at room temperature. Eaten in moderation, they has positive health effects. They can help lower bad cholesterol while performing some other important bodily functions.  

Saturated Fats are like the kids who always get into trouble in the schoolyard.  They might be exciting to be around, but if you hung out together, you’d soon find yourself in trouble as well. Saturated fats are predominantly found in meat and dairy products, but processed foods have can have them through the use of some of few saturated fats found in the plant world, coconut and palm oil.  Most of us eat too much saturated fat. You know saturated fat when you see it because it’s solid at room temperature.  Decades of sound science show that saturated fats contribute to bad cholesterol and put people at higher risk of heart disease, which is still the number one cause of death in the U.S.

Trans Fats are human-made or manufactured fats and are just plain bad for you.  You’ll recognize then by the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” as ingredient lists refer to oils.  Lock them out.  They’re predominantly found in processed foods.  Enough said.

An article from The Cleveland Clinic did a wonderful job of clarifying how much fat we should eat on a daily basis.
“The dietary reference intake (DRI) for fat in adults is 20% to 35% of total calories from fat. That is about 44 grams to 77 grams of fat per day if you eat 2,000 calories a day. It is recommended to eat more of some types of fats because they provide health benefits. It is recommended to eat less of other types of fat due to the negative impact on health.”

So now that you know your fats, you can be aware of what you’re eating.  Just keep in mind that fat contains the highest calorie load of all the nutrients, so it’s important to stay within the recommended dietary guidelines.   When we eat too much of it, it gets stored as – well – fat!

To help you negotiate fats in your diet, Grown-up kitchen offers recipes that deliver the appropriate fats we need in healthy portion sizes.