This article explains fats, one of the essential macronutrients to fuel your success.
What do you consume throughout the day to fuel your success? If you are similar to many other business owners and executives, you are most likely running off coffee, determination, and whatever food you can grab and get down quickly in between meetings and other important tasks. Sometimes you may even get to the end of a day and realize you have had no food and were running solely on caffeine. Being able to fuel their bodies with proper food and nutrition is a common struggle for business owners and executives amidst their busy schedules. Have you stopped to consider the difference it could make to the success in your day if you were to fuel your body and brain with nutritious meals? Would you be more productive, more efficient, more effective with your work? Imagine the possibilities if you were to fuel yourself for success! In this article we explain fats, one of the 3 essential macronutrients to include in a meal to fuel your success.
What are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients are nutrients that our bodies need in larger amounts in order to function properly, which makes sense as macro means large. These nutrients provide us with energy, in the form of calories, which our bodies need in order to maintain our systems and structures. The 3 major macronutrients that should be included in every health meal include proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. In truth, each food contains all 3 macronutrients, however almost all food items contain a majority of just 1 of the 3 macros, which is why each specific food items falls into a specific macro category. For example, an apple is highest in carbs, so it is therefore categorized as a carbohydrate.
What are Fats?
Fats are considered the most calorie-dense macronutrient. There are several types of fats, some are considered healthy fats, while others are considered unhealthy. Foods that contain fats tend to have a mix of the different types of fats. Here are 7 common types of fats:
1. Saturated Fats:
These fats don’t have any bends in them from double bonds as they are saturated with hydrogen molecules. They tend to come from animal sources with high fat content such as fatty red meats, poultry with skin, and dairy products. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. These fats tend to be high in calories, and are linked to high cholesterol levels and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Decreasing the amount of saturated fats in our diet is considered beneficial to our health, as our bodies are able to produce the saturated fatty acids we need.
2. Trans Fats:
Trans fats can be found naturally in meats or dairy; however they are small amounts. Most often, trans fats are created in the food industry to increase the shelf life by hydrogenating (adding hydrogen molecules) unsaturated fats, such as liquid vegetable oils, to make them more solid. Common sources of trans fats are baked goods, fried foods, margarine, coffee creamer, and crackers. It is recommended for trans fats to be avoided due to their link to heart diseases. Trans fats are considered more dangerous to our health than saturated fats, as they contribute to insulin resistance, raise levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) also known as the “bad” cholesterol, while also reducing the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol.1
These are fats that are found in our blood, and most types of fats we eat become triglycerides. The body converts unused calories into triglycerides, which are then stored in fat cells. The body is storing these fats to provide energy between meals, however if we are consuming more calories than we expend, triglycerides accumulate as the body does not require burn them for energy. These fats are potentially dangerous to our health when the levels are too high, and are linked to coronary artery disease, especially in women.
4. Monounsaturated Fats:
These fats get their name from not being saturated with hydrogen molecules, and also from having a single (mono) carbon bond in the molecule, which is also called a double bond. Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, and would include olive oil, peanut oil, avocados and olives. These fats are considered to have a heart-protective role, are linked to improved levels of HDL, and may also help with insulin levels and blood sugar control. These are considered one of the healthy fats, and it is recommended that fat intake comes from these healthy fats.
5. Polyunsaturated Fats:
Like monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats are not saturated with hydrogen molecules and get their name from having numerous carbon bonds in the fat molecule. These fats are also liquid at room temperature, and tend to come from plant food sources soybeans, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts. They are also present in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, and trout. These fats have a good impact on cholesterol levels, and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. Polyunsaturated fats also provide the essential fatty acids including omega-3 and omega-6, and are considered one of the healthy fats to consume.
6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
These are a kind of polyunsaturated fat which comes from plant-based sources and fish. They are known to reduce blood pressure levels, and are also important anti-inflammatories. These fatty acids work like aspirin, by inhibiting an enzyme that produces hormones which trigger inflammation.
7. Omega-6 Fatty Acids:
These are another polyunsaturated fat, and are commonly in plant-based oils such as vegetable, corn, peanut, grapeseed and sunflower oils, as well as mayonnaise and many salad dressings. These fats promote healthy skin and hair growth, benefit our metabolism, and help to maintain bone health and the reproductive system. Excessive amounts of this fatty acid may lead to the body producing inflammatory chemicals, which is important to know as we tend to get more omega-6s than necessary and far too few omega-3s in our diets.
Why are Fats Essential?
The primary function of fats is to store energy in our bodies. During exercise, the body first uses calories from carbohydrates for energy, then after about 20 minutes it uses calories from stored fat to keep going. They are also used for energy between meals. Fats help our bodies to absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Fats are essential for repair, maintenance, and function of ALL fatty tissues in our bodies including:
- 7-100 trillion cellular membranes
- Endocrine glands – for hormonal production
- Immune cells
- Insulation – thermal and protective
- Nerve pulse transmission – cellular communication
- Tissue structure
Food Sources for Fats
As explained above in the macronutrient section, foods that contain more fats than the other 2 macros are placed in the “fats” category of foods.
Here are some healthy food choices that are considered fats:
- All Cheese – other than the protein cheeses (protein cheeses: cottage, swiss, mozzarella (low fat), real parmesan)
- Fish – mackerel, pickerel, salmon
- Milk – whole
- Oils – avocado, coconut, ghee, olive
- Raw Chocolate
- Red Meats
- Seeds – chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, sunflower (seeds are healthy, seed oils are not)
Good Fats – Essential Fuels for Success
While fats have typically been seen as a “bad” food, and are associated with weight gain, this article has explained why the good fats are essential for our health and success. Considering these macronutrients are essential for the storage of energy, along with many other vital processes in the tissues of our bodies including uptake of fat-soluble vitamins, it is understandable that they contribute greatly to a successful day! Knowing the vital role fats play for our brain and body, it is worth incorporating these macronutrients into healthy meals that can fuel your day for success.
Next up in this series is our article on the 3rd macronutrient: carbohydrates.
Download this resource Fueling Yourself for Success: Part 3 – Fats.