What`s the first thing that crosses your mind when you hear the word “fat”?
Many of us think about a stick of butter, a large size of French fries or a greasy hamburger, but mostly we associate it with excess body weight. It may be true when we think about what most Americans eat and what the Western diet stands for, but it may surprise you to hear that you and your family need to eat more fat – or, rather, more of certain kinds of fat.
Just like carbs, there are good-for-you fats and bad-for-you fats, fats you should eat more of and fats you should stay away. Don`t worry, I made it my job to clear up fat’s reputation by explaining to you, in the simplest way possible, why it is vital to feed yourself and your family a right-fat diet, without having any second thoughts.
Did you know fat keeps our bodies healthy? In order for our bodies to build healthy tissue and operate at optimal level, we need healthy fats. Here`s why:
Fats build the brain
Our brains are 60% fat. The structural components of cell membranes throughout the body are made of fat. If fat makes up more than a half of brain tissue, having the right kinds of fat available to form these membranes, called myelines, is of vital importance.
Myelin is a white fatty sheath that insulates nerves, like insulation on electrical wires. This “insulation” makes it possible for messages to travel efficiently throughout the brain and the body.
Fats help make hormones
Fats are fundamental elements of some of the most important substances in the body, including sex hormones and prostaglandins, which regulate many functions in the body.
Fats build healthy skin
Having a layer of fat under the skin keeps you from getting cold. It also gives the skin a smooth, nice-looking texture. A diet poor in healthy fats leads to a scaly, dry skin.
Fats help the body use important vitamins
Fats in food help the intestines absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Fats protect and cushion the organs
Our vital organs, including the kidneys, heart and intestines would be susceptible to injury without a layer of fat to cushion and protect them.
Fats supply energy
Body fat stores energy. When the body runs out of fuel (calorie deficit) from a meal or snack and its small supply of stored carbs, it dips into its reserves and burns fat to keep you going.
Fat makes food taste good
If you were wondering what gives food an appealing texture and flavour, now you know. It`s fat! It carries more flavour than carbs and protein and it also gives food a smooth and silky feeling in the mouth. Vegetables sautéed in a bit of olive oil have a more intense flavour and a silkier texture than steamed vegetables.
Fats are filling
Fat is digested slowly, making you feel full. Even though gram for gram, fats have twice as many calories as carbs, they may help you eat fewer calories. They trigger the release of a satiety hormone called cholecystokinin, or CCK, in the stomach, which alarms the brain that you`ve eaten enough. Fats also slow the entry of carbs into the bloodstream, slowing the digestion and making you feel full for a longer period.
Try this as an experiment: as a snack, spread 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (without added sugars) on slices of apple and enjoy. You`ll eat approximately 230 calories.
The next day, try a different 230-calorie snack, but one with little or no fat, such as a large serving of fresh fruit juice. You`ll most probably feel hungry again soon and want to eat more.
Keep in mind: the right amount of healthy fat is good for the body.