The Macronutrient Series: All About Fats
Welcome back to our macronutrient blog series! In our past two blog posts, we discussed the role that carbohydrates and proteins have in our body and this week we will be focusing on fats, the final macronutrient! Fats are one of the three macronutrients that we need to incorporate into our diet. Fats are essential to human health as they protect our organs, help us absorb nutrients, and produce important hormones. Fats provide more energy per gram than carbohydrates and proteins, making this nutrient an asset to the diet if utilized in an optimal way.
Certain types of fats are important to keep our heart healthy, while consuming other types of fats should be limited. Let’s talk more about the different types of fats…
There are four different types of fats: trans fats, saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. Each type of fat has a different chemical composition that poses different effects on the body.
When consumed in moderation, unsaturated fats (monounsaturated & polyunsaturated) are the healthy fats that provide benefits to your heart health. Monounsaturated fats are found in items such as olive oil, canola oil, and nuts. Polyunsaturated fats are the fats you’ve likely heard the most about – Omega 3 & Omega 6 fats. This type of fat is found in fatty fish, sunflower oil, & also nuts and seeds.
When it comes to trans fats and saturated fats, you want to be cautious of your consumption of these two. Consuming high amounts of saturated fats can lead to increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. Over time, LDL cholesterol may build-up along the walls of the blood vessels (the tubes that transport blood in our body), which has the potential to block blood flow, causing poor cardiovascular health outcomes (i.e., hypertension, heart attack, stroke). Trans fats are manufactured and made of liquid oil converted to solid fat. This type can be found in processed, deep fried, and packaged foods to add flavour and texture.
Replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are better for our cardiovascular health as they may lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, increase our good HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels, prevent plaque buildup in our arteries, and reduce our chances of developing cardiovascular disease!
Check out this table for some examples of each type of fat:
|Type of Fat:||Food Sources:|
|Saturated fats||Dairy products, animal products (pork, beef, etc), butter, coconut oil|
|Trans Fats||Often added to deep fried foods, ready to eat frozen foods (e.g., pizza pockets, burritos), chips, crackers, packaged cookies, commercially baked goods|
|Monounsaturated fats||Olive oil, avocado, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, pistachios, cashews|
|Polyunsaturated fats||Walnuts, flax seeds, salmon, trout, chia seeds|
We don’t need to completely eliminate saturated fats from our diet, but we can try our best to choose monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats when possible! Trans fats on the other hand, should be limited as they can increase our risk for heart disease. Always read the nutrition facts label to see if there are trans fats added to the foods you are eating.
Here are some easy ways you can incorporate ‘healthy fats’ (i.e., monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) into your diet:
- Swap your red meats for white meats to reduce saturated fat content:
- Ground beef –> Ground turkey or chicken
- Pork bacon –> Turkey bacon
- Steak –> Chicken breasts
- Beef meatballs –> Turkey meatballs
- Swap some of your higher-fat dairy products for a healthier fat alternative:
- Higher-fat cow’s milk –> Low-fat cow’s milk, oat milk, macadamia milk, soy milk, almond milk
- Higher-fat cheese –> Low-fat cheese, cashew or nut-based cheese, coconut-based cream cheese
- Higher-fat yogurt –> Low-fat yogurt, coconut-based yogurt, almond-based yogurt
- Add a handful of nuts/seeds (pumpkin seeds, cashews, walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, flax seeds, etc.) to:
- Cold cereal
- Eat fish 1-2x per week:
Dietary Fats. (n.d.). Www.Heart.Org. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/dietary-fats
Facts about saturated fats: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2022, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000838.htm
Facts on Fats. Dietitians of Canada: https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Heart-Health/Facts-on-Fats.aspx