In the past years there has been a lot of different information on the health benefits of fats. After the low fat hype at the beginning of the new century, now people slowly realize that fats play an important role for weight loss and living a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
Fats: The Good and the Bad
The heart-healthy fats, mono-or poly unsaturated fats (Omega 3&6) and the unhealthy fats, the trans-fats. Saturated fats are not unhealthy, as long as they are eaten in reasonable amounts.
What does trans-fat mean?
The fats in our body play an important role in building the membranes of our cells. Most of these fats are in the cis-form. The membranes around our cells are repaired and rebuilt every day, so our body needs a lot of material, especially cis-formed fats. Also, cis-formed fats are needed to synthesize hormones like Cortisol, Sexual Hormones and Thyroid Hormones in our body.
This is why we need to eat cis-formed fats to make sure our body function properly. When we eat those healthy kind of fats (in reasonable amounts), our body knows what to do with them and does not think of storing them in our fat tissues (at first). It is only when we eat more than we burn per day that they get stored … .
However, trans-formed fats are not useful at all, so after resorption in the small intestines, they get stored. Not only in fat tissues, but also in and around our organs and they build plaques in our arteries, leading to arteriosclerosis.
How do you recognize trans-fats?
Trans-formed fats are in food that has been fried.
While cooking, make sure you use coconut oil, butter or sesame oil and only use olive oil when cooking below 150°. Olive oil is very fragile and the cis-form breaks very fast. Cook your food on medium heat with butter and if more fat is needed, pour some olive oil on top after you turned off the heat.
Healthy fats you should include in your diet daily
- Nuts: They lower cholesterol, prevent stroke, heart disease, fight cancer, anti-inflammatory, balance hormonal system
- Fatty fish: Such as salmon, sardine, tuna, trout, herring, mackerel
- Oils: Olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, walnut oil
- Nut butters: Pay attention to your portion sizes: 1 Tablespoon contains around 120 calories already!
- Raw cocoa: Heart healthy, antioxidant (fights cancer), prevents arteriosclerosis, helps with weight loss (secretion of hunger depressing hormones)
- Organic eggs
- Organic butter
- Full fat milk, cheese
- Organic meat
Fats you should not eat (every day)
- anything fried
- fats in combination with simple sugars: Bought cakes, cookies, candy, ice cream, fast food, bars
Effects of a meal high in fat
There are two hormones that have their receptors in the brain and play an important role in weight loss:
Leptin and Ghrelin.
Leptin is released when we eat a meal high in fat or carbohydrates and signals the body that we have eaten enough and thus depresses hunger.
-> Related: Why you can’t lose weight: Leptin resistance
Ghrelin is released when our blood sugar is low and our belly is empty and it increases hunger.
Thus, for weight loss and staying in shape we need to combine our macronutrients in a specific way to give our brain the impression that we have eaten enough and do not need to be hungry.
Tips to balance Leptin and Ghrelin levels
Moderate Fats (and Carbs) and High Protein Breakfast
I put the carbs in brackets because this point is very individual. It depends on your body’s insulin sensitivity.
When you eat a breakfast high in carbohydrates, how do you feel?
Are you hungry 2 hours after?
If that is the case, cut out the carbohydrates and instead eat vegetables and some berries (very low in carbohydrates and high in fiber). When you eat moderate to high amounts of fat in the morning, the body thinks that you have consumed enough food already and decreases the release of Ghrelin.
No fats pre- and post- workout
Right before your workout your body needs energy in form of carbohydrates and protein, the same goes for post workout. Fats slow down the digestion, which is great for decreasing hunger but not pre- or post workout, when our body needs the energy right away.
Increase Fats on Rest Days
On the days you don’t work out and rest or maybe just take a walk or do yoga, reduce your carbohydrate intake. Eat at least one to two meals consisting of protein and fats only. You do not need the additional sugar and your body will actually learn that it does not need carbohydrates to feel full and satiated.
Don’t eat Carbs- or Fats-only Meals
In fact, it is hard to find food that only contains carbs or fats (assuming that you don’t drink oil). Even fruits contain a few grams of protein and fats. Still, the majority of them is made up of carbohydrates. To reduce insulin spikes, always combine your carbohydrate and fats sources with a protein source. This will also make it easier for you to reach our daily protein requirements. Eating too much protein at once can cause digestive issues, so it is smarter to spread your macronutrients over many meals.
Eat around 0.3-0.4g Fat/lbs of Bodyweight.
Remember that every body needs different amounts so do not stress too much about the exact numbers but pay attention to your body’s signals and how you feel after your meals!
I would like to know, what are your favorite sources of healthy fats? Have you tried eating higher amounts of fat in the morning?