The Skinny on Fat: Why You Need Fat in Your Diet - Learn About Essential Fatty Acids

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Some Fat is Good

There is a lot of information in the media about the dangers of eating too much fat and being overweight. However, not eating enough fat can be harmful to the body as well. Learn why your body needs fat and how much of it to eat to maximize your health.

Eating Fat Helps You Manage Your Weight

Having some fat in every meal and snack helps you to feel satisfied, not just full. You can fill up your stomach with lettuce, for example, but you probably won’t feel very satisfied at all. Feeling satisfied makes it easier to stop eating before you’ve stuffed yourself. Fat also adds flavor to food and makes it taste better. A fat-free diet would be hard to stick to simply because you would miss the flavor that fat adds.

Your Body Tissues Need Fat

Some fatty acids are essential and help to lower bad cholesterol and prevent disease. Omega 3 fatty acids are among that group and you have probably heard about its health benefits. Eating good fats helps to raise your good cholesterol and improve your heart health.

Your body needs fat around your organs and for optimal central nervous system functioning. If a woman’s body fat drops too low, it can make her period stop (amenorrhea) and make it difficult to get pregnant. Having certain fats in the body contribute to your good looks as well. Your skin, hair, and nails are affected by how much and what types of fat you eat.

How Much Fat You Need

No more than 30% of the calories you eat each day should come from fat. Fat is a calorie-dense food so a little of it is packed with a lot of calories. Let’s do a comparison to illustrate this point:

  • 1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 Kcal
  • 1 gram of protein = 4 Kcal
  • 1 gram of fat = 9 Kcal

You can see that fat has more than twice the calories of protein and carbohydrate for the same amount of food. Here’s a tip to help you quickly scan a food label and know if it’s too high in fat.

You only need to look at two things on a food label to know if it’s too fatty: total calories and fat calories. Take the fat calories and multiply it by three. If the result is bigger than the total calories, it’s too fatty. If you need to see the numbers to figure it out, read below:

Twix Candy Bar

Total calories = 280

Calories from fat = 130

130 x 3 = 390

390 is bigger than 280 so it’s more than 30% fat which is too high for a low-fat diet.