Dietary fat provides our bodies with energy to function in our daily lives. Dietary fat is also necessary to maintain a healthy nervous system, brain and cell membranes; and for transporting fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K through our bodies. Fat does not necessarily make you fat. Our bodies store too much of any nutrient as fat.
The body digests fat very slowly so fat is able to keeps us satisfied and feeling full for longer. Fat also makes food taste good so try using fat to enhance the flavor of other foods such as olive oil on a salad or avocado on a sandwich. Fat contains more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates making it a dense source of energy, but fat is not the best fuel to sustain high-intensity exercise like playing soccer.
There are two types of dietary fat:
Saturated fat can be harmful to our health and should be consumed less frequently. The USDA recommends that less than 10% of our diet come from saturated fat. Foods that contain saturated fat should be limited, and include:
- Red meat
- Whole dairy products
- Fried foods
Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been chemically modified to act like saturated fats in the body. Trans fats are found in processed foods and are the most harmful to our health.
Unsaturated fat is considered healthy fat and should part of a healthy diet. Unsaturated fat is derived from plants and fish. Good sources of unsaturated fat include:
- Oils (olive, flax, sunflower, grape seed, coconut, walnut)
- Nuts and Seeds (including butters and milks)
- Oily fish (wild salmon, tuna, mackerel)
- Fruits (olives and avocados)