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Erin Nitschke

As dietary fat goes, it’s received a fair share of thumbs down and negative perceptions. Fats are, like its counterparts – carbs and protein – misunderstood and under-recognized for the role they play in the human body. Fats are essential for our health and are responsible for or involved in a significant number of processes.

The Fat Facts

  • Dietary cholesterol plays a role in hormone development
  • Fat is necessary for the absorption and transportation of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).
  • Dietary fat provides essential fatty acids that the human body cannot produce.
  • Fats are a source of energy for the body.
  • Fats play a role in blood sugar regulation.
  • The brain is nearly 60-70 percent fat.
  • Fat is necessary for cell wall structure and myelin sheath formation (nervous system).

And that’s just the short list of why fat is necessary and vital for human life and health. So why is fat still feared? Mostly because too many dietary fads have demonized this macronutrient. Let’s dispel some of the top 5 fat myths.

1. Myth: Fat makes you fat. Truth: Fat is the most energy dense of the three macronutrients containing 9 calories per each gram. Carbs and protein are equal carry 4 calories per each gram. Too much of anything can cause weight gain, but a healthy intake of fat will not result in an increase in body weight or fat. The body gains weight when caloric intake (the amount we eat) exceeds caloric expenditure (what we burn off).

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2. Myth: Fats are unhealthy. Truth: There are healthy fats and fat to limit or avoid. The healthiest fats are monounsaturated (almonds, walnuts, olive oil, etc.) and Omega-3’s (salmon, trout, herring, flax and chia seeds, walnuts, eggs etc.). These fats are balanced and have benefits for the heart and brain. It’s best to avoid trans fats (those that are manufactured and denoted as “partially hydrogenated” oil on ingredient labels).

3. Myth: Fats are the only way to flavor food. Truth: Fat does give food flavor but adding a wide variety of spices and herbs do more favors for flavor than fat alone. Bulk up on the spices and trim the fat at the same time.

4. Myth: Butter is bad. Truth: Butter is a far better alternative than margarine or other “fake butter.” Butter has very few ingredients (cream and salt, for example) while margarine is full of trans fat (the kind we want to avoid). Enjoy butter – butter is your friend (in moderation).

5. Myth: Low-fat foods are key to weight loss. Truth: Low-fat foods are often processed and contain more salt and/or sugar than the full fat version. Compare the ingredient labels. It’s often better to have a smaller portion of the full-fat version than to binge on its lower-fat counterpart.

Fat is fun and flavorful. And the right types of fats can offer cardio-protective benefits and support brain and body function. If you’ve been avoiding fats, take a look at why and consider how you can thoughtfully (and deliciously) incorporate this necessary nutrient back into your daily eating plan.

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Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother and passionate fitness professional. Visit her personal blog at belivestaywell.com. She can be reached at erinmd03@gmail.com

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