Here’s why you need to eat a combo of fats if you want a better body and a smarter brain
If you’re like us, you’ll have lost count of the number of times you’ve heard someone say, “I want to shed some belly fat, so I’m going to stop eating fat.” Heck, maybe that thought has even crossed your mind in the past. But cutting back on your daily intake of dietary fat, especially to minuscule amounts, is one of the worst things you can do – not only when attempting to lose weight but more importantly for your overall health and happiness.
Fats, in the form of essential fatty acids, like some proteins (essential amino acids), can’t be manufactured or created out of other compounds by your body so they must be consumed from dietary sources. Nutrient-dense fats, such as those found in avocados or nuts, are essential to achieving a better body because your body needs them for the efficient production of muscle-building, fat-burning and sex drive-boosting testosterone, among many other important biological processes.
Saturated fats have had a bad press over the years for alleged links to heart disease and other health concerns, but more evidence is emerging that a good approach is to get your fats in an equally divided amount from the three main types – monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fat – because each provides slightly different health benefits.
The only type to avoid are trans fats, which are not found in natural foods but a common ingredient in takeaways, snacks and fast foods. There is overwhelming evidence that eating too many trans fats increases your risk of many serious health issues including heart disease, cancer and obesity. Here are three physical and mental health benefits of eating good quality fats every day.
1. Eat away at belly fat
It’s worth shouting this again for those of you at the back: eating fat won’t make you fat. Of course, eating too much of anything will cause weight gain if you fail to burn off as many calories as you consume, but it’s very hard to over-eat huge amounts of fat in the same way it’s possible to neck vast amounts of carbs, especially in the form of sugary snacks and drinks. In fact, science says that eating fats as part of a balanced diet will actually help you lose body fat rather than gain it: subjects put on a Mediterranean-style diet with a moderate intake of fat lost an average of 4.4kg of weight during the study, while those on a low-fat diet only lost 2.9kg, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. What’s more, researchers found that the fat-eating group had better insulin sensitivity, which means their hormones were better optimised to burn fat and build muscle mass.
2. Look and feel better
If you always hit your five-a-day target of fruit and veg you may think you are getting all the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs for you to look and feel fantastic. However some nutrients, including vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, which means that they are only properly absorbed in your intestinal tract in the presence of fats. Once consumed they are then stored in the liver and in fat cells, but without fat you’ll struggle to absorb them fully. So if your meal is packed with veggies but light on fats add a small knob of butter to your veggie pile to make it taste better and to increase nutrient absorption.
3. Sharpen your brain
Fats not only make you stronger and leaner, they also make you smarter. A diet rich in omega-3, a type of polyunsaturated essential fatty acid, has been linked to a huge number of health benefits, including a better functioning brain and a reduced risk of depression and dementia. The best source of omega-3 is found in cold-water, oily fish, such as salmon, but you can also find it in organic eggs and dairy products.