The past two weeks of the shape up challenge we have talked about the importance and benefits of proteins and carbohydrates. Now it is time for us to talk about the last, and often most overlooked, essential nutrient, fat. It may seem strange that fats are considered an essential nutrient because most of us are trying to get rid of it, so it seems only logical to cut it from your diet. The key is to be eating the right kinds and avoiding the wrong kinds. But don’t worry, we will talk all about that in just a minute.
Why they are good
There are many health benefits that come from eating the right amount of the proper fats. Certain types can boost the health of your heart and decrease the risk of heart disease. It can help to relieve joint pain and reduce muscle stiffness. Some types are beneficial to insulin levels and help control your blood sugar; this is especially important if you have diabetes.
There are some vitamins that need the help from fat to dissolve into the body and provide the nutrients they contain. Different kinds also helps to maintain healthy looking skin, hair, and nails.
There are some studies that show that fat can decrease the risk of breast cancer in women, reduce cholesterol levels, reduce belly fat and assist in weight loss.
One great thing is that when you eat the essential fats you can eat just a small amount and feel fuller for a longer period of time than you would if you ate most other foods (especially carbohydrates and foods with empty calories).
The good vs the bad
There are four major types of fat: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated and trans fats.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are known as the good fats because they are vital for growth, healthy skin, absorption of vitamins, and regulation of bodily functions. Plus they are good for your heart and your cholesterol.
Saturated and trans fats are the bad fats. They are the reason all fats have a bad reputation. They clog your arteries, raise your cholesterol, and put you at risk for several diseases. So its a good idea to eat these very sparingly.
Examples of each
Here are a few examples of each of the fats so you know what to avoid and what you can eat guilt free (however, still sparingly).
Monounsaturated fats: This type is found in a variety of foods and oils such as avocados, nuts, peanut butter, and olive oil.
Polyunsaturated fat: This is mostly found in plant based foods and oils such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna, trout), soymilk, and tofu.
**Remember that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are often liquid at room temperature.**
Saturated and trans fats are typically solid at room temperature. Saturated fats mainly come from animal sources. Example include: butter, cheese, and ice cream. Trans fats mostly come from processed foods like doughnuts, chips, candy bars, and fried foods.
It’s important to remember that trans and saturated fats shouldn’t be cut out all together because if we deprive ourselves of certain things we are likely to fail (remember what we talked about in week three?).
The key to success in your nutrition is to find the proper balance of what you should and should not be eating. It’s always a good idea to find a good website that will help you track your food intake so you can tell how much of each nutrient you are getting and can make adjustments from there.