Did you know your body needs fats for more than just insulation? Fats, like carbohydrates and proteins, are essential to your diet and bodily functions. As just one example of how they’re used, certain types of vitamins, like A, K, and D, are more easily absorbed with the help of fats.
But fats often get a bad rap. Food product manufacturers offer ‘lite’ and ‘low-calorie’ versions of their products in response to the ‘fat is bad’ craze, but the trade-off here is these products are often bulked up with sugar and yucky man-made fats to make them taste appealing.
Reducing fat intake by too much in order to lose weight can actually have the opposite effect. By severely restricting calories, you can also accidentally trick your body into thinking it’s starving and go into famine mode, where it stores up calories wherever possible because it doesn’t know when or if it will get more.
So how do you know which fats are good and bad? First, Let’s break down the two groups of fats: saturated and unsaturated. These are sometimes mistakenly referred to as ‘unhealthy’ and ‘healthy’ fats, but this is not true!
An unsaturated fat is generally one that’s liquid at room temperature - like vegetable, nut, olive, or fish oils. Fish oils are a great source of linoleic and linolenic acid, also known as Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. These are essential for healthy brain function and development, and your body can’t produce them on its own.
Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature, like most animal fats and coconut oil. Saturated fats also include trans fats, which are man-made and designed to make foods last longer - think cookies and chips. These are ingredients like hydrogenated oils. Trans fats can build up over time in the arteries and should be avoided entirely, and other saturated fats should be eaten in moderation.
So this means:
Trans fats: Really bad
Saturated fats: OK
Unsaturated fats: Good
Now that you know how these fats rank, how do you figure out how much fat is right for your diet? Rather than thinking about fat specifically, it makes more sense to think about overall calories and serving sizes, and spreading the fats you eat throughout your meals because they help you to stay full.
A whole, medium-sized avocado, has about 250 calories and 22g of fat. Depending on your level of activity, weight, and other factors, this might equate to a whole meal’s worth of calories for one person, or only half a meal’s worth of calories for a professional crossfitter. If you’re looking to lose weight, your overall calories should be reduced, not just your fats. Still confused? Try using a Total Daily Energy Intake calculator to get an estimate of your recommended daily caloric intake!
While you don’t want to go overboard with your daily calorie intake, you do want to make sure that your daily fat intake is coming from healthy, unsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, and wild-caught fish. So, as long as it’s within your daily calorie budget, by all means enjoy that avocado!