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Eating fat won’t make you fat.
Despite what you might think, foods that have fat in them won’t cause you to gain fat.
I mean… if you overeat fat, you’ll gain weight. But if you overeat ANYTHING you’ll gain weight.
Back in the 80s and 90s there was a bit of a low-fat craze and people were selling low-fat diets as the solution to health and weight loss.
Well our waistlines continued to go up and we aren’t much healthier than we were before the whole craze. In fact, there’s speculation that millennials may be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
So yeah… Eating “low fat” wasn’t the solution.
Now research is showing that fats are an important part of a healthy diet so the pendulum is starting to swing the opposite way. As a result, many people are taking the total opposite approach and are advocating for extremely high-fat, and low carbohydrate diets.
Buuut that’s not making any great changes to our collective health or waistlines either.
So… what are we to make of this? Should we eat fats? And if so how much?
In this post I’ll cover everything you need to know about:
1. The truth about fats and why you need them
2. what the best sources are, and
3. how to make sure you’re eating the right amounts without driving yourself crazy.
The Truth About Fats
Our bodies need fats to function.
Healthy fats give us:
- Slow burning fuel to last through the day
- Fullness and satiety that keep us from getting too hungry
- Assistance with hormone production so we can be healthy, energetic, and lean
Healthy fats even help to improve the quality of your skin!
But here’s the thing:
1 gram of fat has about 9 calories. Meanwhile, 1 gram of protein or carbohydrate has only 4 calories.
So what the hell does that mean for you?
That means it’s VERY EASY to overeat fat-dense food and not realize it. Here are a few quick examples:
1 tablespoon of olive oil is 120 calories
1 cup of almonds is 529 calories
1 tablespoon of butter is 100 calories
And I bet you’ve eaten more than that in a sitting before without even noticing it. Crazy, right?!
So while our bodies absolutely need healthy fats and we shouldn’t be afraid of them, we also have to be careful not to overdo it.
It seems complicated but I promise it isn’t. Let’s chat about what the best sources are and how much you should be getting.
Where Should I Get my Fats From?
There are three different types of fats that our bodies need:
- Saturated fats (Typically found in animal products like dairy or the fat on meat as well as some oils like coconut and palm)
- Monounsaturated fats (Typically found in olives and olive oil, avocados, and most nuts)
- Polyunsaturated fats (Typically found in walnuts, sunflower seeds, and vegetable oils)
None of them are “bad” unless you have too much of them. But that’s a given.
Generally, It’s best to aim for an equal split of all three (about 1/3 of our fat content from each type). But before you get out the food scale and calculator, relax. You don’t have to be perfectly precise and there’s an easy way around this: Just aim for variety of fat sources and you’ll be fine.
Here are some of our favourite sources of healthy fats:
- Olive oil
- Nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, peanuts
- Seeds like pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
- Grass fed butter
- Fresh wild fish
- Grass-fed beef
- Range-fed chicken
If you eat a variety of these foods, you’ll get a healthy variety of fats. Try to spread out different sources at different meals and you’re good to go!
But how much of these do you need daily? Let’s get into that next.
How Much Fat Do I Need?
Hold out your hand in a “thumbs up” position.
You see your thumb there? You’ll be using that to eyeball your healthy fat servings.
Whether your measuring out a serving or two of nuts, or serving up some guacamole, that’s what it’ll look like.
Aim to get one (for women) or two (for men) of these servings at most meals. That means a total of 3-4 servings for women and 6-8 servings for men daily.
Now that may seem like a small portion size but here’s the thing:
Most of our foods have some fat in them already. And if you’re going to a restaurant, you’d better believe the foods there are slathered in it. That’s how they make it taste so good!
Many of us are already getting more than enough fat content but it likely comes from low quality sources like trans fats from processed foods or saturated fats from poor quality animal products.
So we don’t really need to add much extra but it helps to get some variety in there and add some healthy sources.
Next time you’re portioning out nuts or serving up some guacamole, have a quick look at your thumb and use that to eye-ball your portions. It’s a hell of a lot easier than using a food scale and a calorie counting app and you get a lot fewer funny looks from family members. 😉
What’s the Next Step
Here’s my challenge to you:
For the next two weeks, make this your nutritional priority above. See if you can make healthy fat portioning into a habit. You might not notice drastic changes in just two weeks but you’ll be building one of the foundational habits of a healthy diet and, probably start to feel a lot better as well.
(NOTE: If you find it nearly impossible to to create healthy meals or even prepare the right foods, week in and week out, you have to check out these simple, easy to follow steps. These free inforgrahics remove the guesswork. Learn more here.)