Even in the midst of an obesity epidemic, we still need to eat fats.
Recently I was enjoying one of my stand by recipes, slow cooked beans and vegetables. However, I wasn’t following my own recipe and my “healthy” diet was about to be sabotaged… by fat!
But not because I was eating too much.
The recipe as I made it this time had almost NO fat.
Why do we need dietary fat? What does it do?
There are three macronutrients and all the foods you eat contain some mixture of all three. And all three are essential to healthy human life. While there are diets that emphasize or de-emphasize one of those nutrients (low carb, low fat, ketogenic) you need and invariably eat all three. The only thing that changes are the ratios.
So in a non-specific diet, how much dietary fats should you eat a day? Looking at it from a broad perspective, your diet should contain 20% to 35% fats. Getting less than 20% of your daily caloric intake from fat could have negative health implications because you need fat:
- Fat provides a highly-concentrated form of energy. One gram of fat gives you nine calories of energy, which is over twice that provided by carbohydrates or protein.1
- Fat enables your body to transport, store and absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. An absence of fat may mean a deficiency in these vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins help to regulate blood pressure, heart rate, blood vessel constriction, blood clotting, and the nervous system.1
- Fat provides insulation and a protective cover for vital organs. In an average adult, as much as 9 lbs of fat is found around the liver, heart, kidneys and other organs.1
- Essential fatty acids from omega-3 and omega-6 fats cannot be made by your body, and therefore they must be supplied through your diet. Dull, lifeless hair and dry skin can be a sign that you may not be getting enough of these fats.1
- Gives shape to your body.2
- Cushions your skin (imagine sitting in your chair for a while as you enjoy your visit to Dummies.com without your buttocks to pillow your bones).2
- Acts as an insulation blanket that reduces heat loss.2
- Part of every cell membrane (the outer skin that holds each cell together).2
- A component of myelin, the fatty material that sheathes nerve cells and makes it possible for them to fire the electrical messages that enable you to think, see, speak, move, and perform the multitude of tasks natural to a living body; brain tissue also is rich in fat.2
- A constituent of hormones and other biochemicals, such as vitamin D and bile.2
So fat isn’t just the goop that hides your six pack. It’s VITAL.
What got me thinking about whether or not I was eating enough fat? My brain.
Someone had posted the image on the left and it was eye opening. Fats literally build your brain and it’s healthy fatty acids that allowed our brains to evolve at such a fast rate.
So back to the slow cooked veggies & beans. The particular time in question, I was just winging it and didn’t include the olive oil. It was still a healthy dish but the total fat content of the entire cooked mixture was 5.1 grams. Since each full crock pot is 6 servings for me, that means every serving had a measly 0.85 grams of fat. Essentially, it was fat free. Had I read my own recipe, the total fat content would have been 77.1 grams, or 12.85 grams per serving, a much healthier number.
How important are dietary fats to humans? We can smell them!
Research that was published in PLOS ONE earlier this year showed that test subjects could discriminate different levels of fat in milk. As senior author Johan Lundström, PhD said , “…this ability must have had considerable evolutionary importance.” Ironic that the conclusion in the first paragraph is that we should figure out how to fool the brain into thinking low fat food actually contained fat. Duh. Yes, great idea. You know better than NATURE & EVOLUTION, scientists. Please…
Why should we try to make the brain think low fat food actually has fat in it? Is it good for our health? Does eating full fat food cause obesity. Well, I answered the first question earlier. I think 10 essential uses for fat in the body is pretty important. Plus the brain thing. What about obesity? Doesn’t eating full fat foods cause obesity? NOPE. As a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care found, and I quote:
A high intake of dairy fat was associated with a lower risk of central obesity and a low dairy fat intake was associated with a higher risk of central obesity.
Be honest, doesn’t low fat milk or yogurt just not taste as good?
I’ll whole heartedly agree with that statement. A few weeks ago I was out of yogurt and when I went to the store to buy more all they had was zero percent. I needed something for breakfast so I bit the bullet and bought it. Last time I’ll every do that. It tasted thin and really was not enjoyable.
Previous to the packaging of milk in cardboard light blocking containers (post WWII), skim milk (milk with the fat skimmed off so the cream can be used for other purposes) was essentially considered a waste product and was frequently dumped. It was considered deficient in crucial nutrients and to this day, it is required to be fortified with vitamin A, as A is a fat soluble nutrient and is gone when you get rid of the fat.
So make smart, useful choices when dealing with dietary fat.
Avoid or just eliminate transfats, as they are only negative to human health. Keep your intake of saturated fats to about 10% of your daily caloric intake. But don’t eliminate or overly reduce fat. Because apparently you’ll be more likely to get fat and your brain won’t work well! Who wants that?