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Fundamentals Of Good Nutrition: Fats Are Our Friend

Ciaran Ruddock from FFS Gyms is here to dispel the myth that fats can only be negative.

Do you want to feel better and be healthier?

Well, it’s time to understand why eating healthy fats at most meals is a fundamental of good nutrition.

We define healthy fats as ‘minimally unprocessed fats from whole food sources’.

Fats can have a powerful effect on the following:

  • Metabolism
  • Cell signalling
  • Healthy of tissues in our body
  • Immunity
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Hormone production
  • Brain function
  • Absorption of many nutrients (vitamin A & D)
  • Regulation of hunger signals

Our bodies are made up of trillions of cells and the health of these cells determine how healthy we are as people. Fats play a critical role in our cell health because our cell membranes are fat-based, i.e. the fat we consume becomes part of our cells.

The quality of this fat influences how our cells communicate and interact with each other. Many of our bodies tissues are fat-based including our brains and the fatty sheath isolating our nervous system. So, if you want to feel better and have more energy, eating healthy fats is a must. 

You can get healthy fats from the following sources:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Olives
  • Oily fish
  • Fish oils
  • Avocado
  • Coconut
  • Full fat dairy
  • Olive oil
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Red meats
  • Whole eggs 

Just as with colourful fruits and vegetables, I recommend people eat a wide variety of healthy fats. I am not going to go too deep into the science but eating a wide variety of fat sources ensures that we get a wide variety of both saturated and unsaturated fats.

Both types of fats have different health benefits and eating a variety of foods keeps you interested and excited about your meals. Variety is the spice of life after all. 

One thing to consider when it comes to fats is that they are very calorie dense. Fats contain 9 calories (kcal) per gram, whereas protein and carbohydrates contain 4 calories (kcal) per gram.     

This is not good nor bad. This is just something that we have to be aware of. Fats are more than twice the calorie density of proteins and carbohydrates.

If your goal is to maintain or decrease your body fat levels I would recommend being mindful of your fat intake, even if you are eating mostly healthy fats. Many of the people I work with who want to get leaner are eating too much fat.

This means that they never get into a calorie deficit, that is needed for fat loss, despite making better food choices.

If your goal is to increase bodyweight for your sport or you find it difficult to maintain your body weight in sport that has very high energy demands, increasing your intake of healthy fats is one of the easiest ways to increase your calorie intake.

For example I work with a few young athletes, who have high training loads and find it challenging to eat enough food to maintain or increase their body weight. For these athletes, I recommend that they add an extra one to two servings of healthy fats to their meals. This allows them to increase their daily energy intake without taking up too much valuable stomach space.

I would recommend:

  • Males aim for two thumb-sized servings of fats per meal
  • Females aim for one thumb-sized serving of fat per meal

If you want to feel better, be healthier, perform better or increase your bodyweight – then healthy fats are a must. 

The three take-home points for healthy fats are as follows.

  1. They are essential for great health.
  2. They are twice as calorie dense as protein and carbohydrates.
  3. Eat a wide variety of minimally processed healthy fat sources.

I love educating people about the benefits of healthy fats.

In my experience as a coach, many people have some level of anxiety around eating fats. Hopefully I have shown you that we don’t have to be scared of fat. Fats are our friends.