The Best Healthy Fats for You
Over the past few years we have heard it all, from no fat, low fat, high fat, that’s so phat… what is the skinny on fat?
Well, fat is a nutrient, just like carbohydrates and protein. These three groups are know as macronutrients (macro meaning big). To look at the facts, fat has 9 calories per gram, whereas protein and carbohydrate has 4 calories per gram. Oh, and we are forgetting the nations favourite- (no, not chocolate) alcohol, that has 7 calories per gram. Hey, just keeping it real! Life balance is key.
Despite what we may think, fats are not bad. In fact, they are an extremely important part of your diet.
Hmm, diet is a term I hate, time for a tangent. “Diet” is the reason we all think fats are the Joker and protein is Batman (#broscience). Let’s change that now. Instead of “diet”, we will say “nutrition”. There we go, much better. Fats, protein and carbohydrates are like the three musketeers. They all work together, not against each other.
It wasn’t that long ago that athletes, bodybuilders, and the ever conscious health nuts, joined forces to round up every devious member of the 9 kcal per gram crew and throw them in the jail cell otherwise known as… the bin.
Luckily, over the last few years, our acceptance of dietary fat has come a long way. We no longer feel the need to put out a warrant for their arrest. Now, we accept the science of fats. We realize that monounsaturated fats can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, that essential fatty acids are required for life as we know it, and even saturated fat has some benefits (just don’t drink it by the gallon).
Want more reasons why are fats important?
Glad you asked. On a basic level, fat offers energy. As we saw above that there are 9 calories per gram of fat! That is over twice the amount of energy from carbohydrate or protein. Remember, a calorie is a measure of energy. Without fats built into your nutrition, you can’t absorb certain vitamins. Vitamin A and vitamin D3 are fat soluble, meaning they need fats in order for our bodies to make any use of them! Ever wondered why your D3 supplement was in a capsule form? Because it is suspended in oil!
For the men out there, you may want to take a look at how much fat your getting. According to one of the world’s most jacked nerds Dr. Lonnie Lowery, a low fat diet can lead to up to a 15% drop in serum Testosterone and an increase in SHBG, which is a protein that binds to Testosterone and basically turns it off. So with a low low fat diet, you aren’t just reducing the amount of Testosterone gents, your actually taking whats left and tying it up and locking it away in an underground government facility never to be seen again… okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic.
Now this doesn’t mean run out and buy a litre of full fat cream and down it for breakfast every morning. Remember, nutrition needs to be balanced! There has been a lot of talk about the idea of a “Ketogenic Diet”. This is a high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate take on nutrition. It has gained a lot of popularity with those looking to get a summer shred on. Personally, I tried keto and got a little leaner but my performance as an athlete went down the drain! Everyone is different though- just some food for thought (teeheehee, pun-tastic).
Alright, so we have said fats are awesome and they do great things for our bodies… but where can you find good sources of healthy fats? Well, we all know that avocados are awesome, nuts are nutritious, and salmon makes you salivate (look at that 4th grade alliteration!). Personally, I have found the holy grail of healthy fats to be MCT oil and coconut oil (MCT oils are made from coconut oil!).
MCT what? Why? For who?
First of all, what is MCT oil? MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides. This is a form of saturated fatty acid that has numerous health benefits ranging from improved cognition to weight management. There are very few natural sources of MCT. Most fats are Long chain Triglycerides (LCT). MCT is usually made from coconut oil… mmm, makes me think of vacations in the Caribbean! I know what you are thinking, can it really be that good? Here’s some information and you can make up your own mind, my friends.
The Good, the Bad, & the Research…
“ Can coconut oil/MCT oil can improve body composition”?
How many times have you heard that eating a Mediterranean-style diet has amazing benefits? This is because it provides adequate servings of healthy fats from omega rich fish and olive oil. In 2008 there was a study released by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition comparing MCT and olive oil consumption. The result of the study showed there was a small skew towards greater total fat loss in the MCT oil group compared to that of the olive oil group. Now, the study included 48 overweight men and women aged 19-50 who ate MCT oil or olive oil as part of a 16 week weight loss program. The reason for the difference could be that MCTs are thought to be hydrolyzed more rapidly and metabolized more completely than Long chain fatty acids and are less likely to be deposited as fat.
“Can it increase your athletic performance?”
In a very small study of 9 trained cyclists by the International Journal of Sport Nutrition, the answer to whether it increases endurance performance was no. Another study by the Journal of Sports Medicine & Physical Fitness had 12 male endurance runners who consumed either corn oil or MCT oil daily for two weeks. They then performed a max effort treadmill test followed by an endurance test. The result showed no difference. However, it can provide energy, again it has 9 calories per gram where carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram. MCTs are rapidly used as fuel in the body. Within minutes after ingesting, it is possible to see that the MCT has been oxidized in the muscle. So it’s good for energy, but that doesn’t mean increased athletic performance. Athletic performance comes down to good nutrition over all and hard work.
“It’s fat… how does it affect my heart?”
In 2014 the Journal of Bioanalysis & Biomedicine looked at the relationship between cardiovascular disease and lauric acid (coconut oil, which MCT oils are made from usually). It concluded that the “consumption of coconut oil enhances the high-density lipoprotein and decreases the total/HDL cholesterol ratio which results in a decrease in risk of cardiovascular diseases.” So it looks like it’ll do your heart some good!
“Is it antimicrobial?”
Nowadays it seems every cold, bug, and bacterium are becoming resistant to our best efforts to irradicate them. It is good to know that using natural products can help fight off these bothersome bandits. Coconut oil has been known to have great anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties since the 1960s. Old reliable. So you know, it’s not just good for your gut and mouth, but also hair and skin! Interesting fact, Irish researchers from the Athlone Institute of Technology reported that coconut oil was the only one out of the three tested (olive oil, coconut oil and vegetable oil) that could prevent Streptococcus mutant from binding to tooth enamel and causing damage! This awesome oil could be your new mouthwash.
The Skinny on Fats…
This is just a small bite out of the cake of information out there! I think coconut oil is a great product to have- you can cook with it, wash your hair with it, or drink it in your morning coffee (seriously try it)! Talk about multi-tasking. The bottom line is have a balanced nutritional plan. MCT oil can be a great addition to your day but do not rely on any product/supplement to be the chalice to everlasting youth. Including such products into your day can help you live a healthier and happier life.
Keep your body happy, have some fat.