A basic understanding of nutrition and the foods you eat can help you make healthier choices in the grocery aisle, the kitchen and eventually your dinner plate. The foods you eat contain nutrients that fall into one of two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals in the foods that we eat, Macronutrients provide your body calories and energy and include fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
A Closer Look At Fats
Fats have many functions and are a necessary part of our diets, however some fats and consuming too many fats can be damaging to your health. Fats are composed of chains of fatty acids made up of carbon atoms, hydrogen atoms with a small number of oxygen atoms. Your body uses these fats as fuel and stores fat for future use as fuel.
Types of Fats
There are three main subcategories of fats or fatty acids, saturated, unsaturated or trans fats.
Saturated Fats contain fat molecules which are “saturated” with hydrogen molecules. Saturated fats are generally solid at room temperature. Examples include animal fat in red meat, and dairy products like butter, cheese and ice cream.
Unsaturated Fats are generally liquid at room temperature and are found primarily in fish, vegetable sources and oils. Unsaturated fats also contain healthy fatty acids called omega-3 fatty acids which promote heart health and help lower cholesterol. Sources include fish and krill oil, avocado, olive oil and the oils from nuts and seeds.
Trans Fats are most often man-made and produced in a laboratory. They are unsaturated fats that have been unnaturally transformed into saturated fats by filling them with hydrogen molecules, a process called partial hydrogenation. This is how vegetable oils are converted into vegetable shortening. Trans fats have been found to be dangerous to your health and shown to cause heart disease and may even increase your risk for cancer. Recently, most food manufacturers have begun removing trans fats from their products and are required to clearly label foods containing trans fats. You should avoid trans fats at all cost.
Increasing the “Good” Fats
Regardless of the type of fat, each gram contains 9 calories more than twice that of proteins and carbohydrates which only contain 4 calories per gram. Fat calories add up quickly, you will gain weight quickly if you eat too much fat of any kind. When you eat more fat than you need, those fats are digested and stored around your waist or your hips and thighs. So add fats sparingly.
Start by choosing lean cuts of grass-fed beef, eat more salmon and guacamole (avocados) for their healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Make your own salad dressings using olive oil and vinegar and cook with olive oil. Switch to Greek yogurt and limit your intake of fatty dairy products like milk and cheese. Experiment with cooking with coconut oil and satisfy your sweet tooth with cocoa butter found in satisfying and surprisingly healthy dark chocolate.