One of the most common questions I get regarding my standard of eating 30% calories from fat, 40% carbohydrates and 30% protein is: from which food sources do you get your fat from?
Understand first that your body needs fat in order to function properly and often by eating “low-fat foods” it means that what you are actually digesting are “highly processed foods”. In the longterm you are much better off eating the natural fat content that comes in healthy foods than by eating a so-called “low fat” alternative.
Also remember that eating fat does not make you fat. Eating too much (excess calories) is what causes your body to convert foods/nutrients/calories/energy to fat.
We have dietary fat which of course comes from the foods that you choose to consume, and if you choose properly these are fantastically helpful to your overall health. And then there is the fat that your body produces and stores when you eat excess calories. I think most people understand that eating excess calories causes your body to convert and store the excess (energy) as fat, and seeing as though most of us strive to lose fat I don’t need to go much further to explain that this is not a good thing. So let’s assume that we have our caloric intake under control.
Fats are digested and broken down into fatty acids and glycerol, Carbohydrates into sugars and Protein into amino acids.
Unhealthy fats are Saturated Fat (found mostly in animal products) and Trans Fat (from unsaturated fats usually created during food processing) which can have a negative impact on cholesterol levels, cause cardiovascular problems, etc. but our focus here is on the good guys.
Healthy fats are mostly of the Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated variety mostly found in oils that are liquid at room temperature (such as olive oil, flaxseed oil, etc.) as opposed to the “bad” fats that are typically solids (think meat fat, butter, etc.). Cholesterol on the other hand is not fat and is necessary for certain key bodily functions – excess, as is typically the case, is a bad thing. There is cholesterol that comes from dietary sources as well as that manufactured by the body. People are starting to come to the realization that fat from meat sources is not as bad as it was made out to be in the past and I certainly do not shy away from pork, beef or eggs in the slightest.
Back to the fat facts. Personally I recommended that 30% of your caloric intake comes from healthy fat sources. My personal favorite sources of healthy fats are: avocados, peanut butter, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, flaxseed, fish, poultry, eggs and some dairy products.
One final tip for eating fat in a healthy manner is this – try to keep your high carbohydrate meals low in dietary fat. Consume your carbs with protein but little fat, and combine fats with proteins. Carbohydrates and their impact on insulin send a message to your body to “store” nutrients so when you combine fats with a high carb meal, you are sending a message to your body to store the fat that you consume (assuming your glycogen stores are filled). Simplified, this is why eating things such as potato chips and french fries are fattening, the combination of bad fat with carbohydrates is daunting to the health conscious individual. You eat fat and the carb+insulin effect demands that it be stored.
Weight loss is mostly calories in versus calories out, but healthy food choices and combinations can make the difference between becoming ordinary, or extraordinary.