Fat Talk

November 9, 2009

When people hear the word “fat” they often think first about their bodies and weight. However, in the nutrition world, fat means much more than that. Fat is a macronutrient that plays an important role in your diet. Many people like to say there are “good” fats and “bad” fats. My philosophy is “everything in moderation,” so I prefer to label fats as “healthy” and “less healthy.”

Before I talk about the different fat sources, it’s important for you to be comfortable with the idea of eating fat. It’s helpful to know why fat is important for your health and why it’s something you need to include in your diet. Fat has multiple functions:

  • It insulates the body, keeping you warm.
  • It provides essential fatty acids (EFAs), linoleic and linolenic acid, which cannot be made by the body and need to be obtained from food. These EFAs play key roles in brain development, blood clotting, and controlling inflammation.
  • It carries fat soluble vitamins — A, D, E, and K — into and around the body. Each of these vitamins has a different function in the body.
  • It helps maintain healthy skin and hair and good eyesight.
  • It serves as an important energy source. When the body has used up energy from its primary energy source, carbohydrates, it depends on fat calories for energy.

While fat is more caloric than carbs or protein — it contains 9 calories per gram as opposed to 4 calories per gram, respectively — dietary fat intake does not equal increased body fat. Excess calories leads to increased weight, wherever those calories come from.

Stay tuned this week for more on fat, including the sources of “healthy” and “less healthy” fat.

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  1. One of the things I like the most about fat is that it helps make foods taste great. Especially foods that sometimes don’t appeal to a lot of folks. For example, you can’t beat fresh greens such as swiss chard or kale sauteed in olive oil and garlic. A big nutrition win that’s so tasty. Thanks for keeping our need for healthy fat in the spotlight!