At nine calories per gram, fat is the densest macronutrient in our diet ? and this has made it a victim of constant bashing and demonization in the nutrition and dieting world. However, studies and experience have shown that this macronutrient has been highly misunderstood and can actually aid in weight loss and performance goals.
So why the bad reputation?
Saturated fats and trans fats have been linked to an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease and elevated cholesterol levels. However, heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as essential fatty acids, provide a myriad of benefits for our health and well-being.
Over the past few years, fat has been shedding its bad press and has shown it can be a very important player in quality nutrition.
Here are the top five functions of fat in our bodies:
Promotes Absorption of Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are considered fat-soluble because they are meant to dissolve in fat. These vitamins play vital roles in maintaining our health but require the presence of fat for the body to absorb them properly. The body needs vitamin A for healthy bones and teeth, to moisturize the eyes, to maintain mucous membrane and skin health, and to assist in cell division. It also needs vitamin D for the optimal absorption and utilization of calcium to promote bone health, vitamin E to act as a powerful antioxidant, and vitamin K to promote bone health and blood clotting. All of these functions could likely be impaired with an absence of fat in the diet as the body will not be able to absorb these specific vitamins effectively.
Supports Optimal Health
Omega-3 essential fatty acids protect the body through a wide range of mechanisms. They promote relaxation and contraction of artery walls, which can help prevent heart disease and stroke. Omega-3s also play a critical role in the synthesis of hormones that control blood clotting, and they enhance metabolic and immune system functions. Sources of omega-3 fats include olive oil, walnuts, flaxseed, eggs, salmon, tuna, and other fatty fish.
Boosts Brain Function
Fats are important for brain health and development. 60 percent of the brain is made up of fat, making it a critical macronutrient for mental growth and development. Pregnant women are encouraged to consume high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids to enhance their baby?s brain and eye development. Fat also enhances the synthesis of many neurotransmitters ? the chemical messengers of the brain!
Fat is a very effective source of energy for the body ? it provides twice as much energy production of carbs! However, your body will not use fat as its primary source of energy if it has access to carbs. But, when your body?s carbohydrate supply has diminished, it will break down your fat reserves and convert fat to energy that powers metabolic activities.
Insulates the Body
Your body uses its subcutaneous fat reserves as an insulator against extreme cold and heat, helping to maintain body temperature and protect nerves from damage so that they may work at optimal levels. It also protects organs by cushioning them. While excess body fat is considered a health risk, this point is highlighted to show that the body is extremely efficient in using and storing energy! We should feel confident in our ability to find our nutritional ?happy place? that provides nutrients for optimal fuel and protection by observing how our body is responding to the quantity and quality of our food choices.
Contrary to the contentious views about fat in the media and among certain fitness circles, fats are a cornerstone of any healthy and balanced diet. Apart from providing several health-enhancing benefits, fats also improve the palatability of food and increase satiety, helping to keep you full longer with less food ? especially if you have cut back on carbohydrates. By balancing this macronutrient effectively with carbohydrates and protein, you will quickly see how fat supports a sustainable and successful nutrition plan.
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