It feels like forever that scientist's and nutritionist's have debated how much fat the average person should consume. The latest research has evidently shown that fat is not the demon we believed it to be. With MCT oil, butter and ‘fat bombs’ replacing kale as the new heroes of the food world and the increasing popularity of the ketogenic diet, the question we keep hearing is: How much and which type of fats should I really be eating?!
Before looking at the amount of fat in your diet, the most important thing to understand that not all fat is created equal. With saturated vs. unsaturated, omega-3 vs. omega-6, ratios of omega-3 to omega-6, monounsaturated vs. polyunsaturated and transaturated fats. It can be very confusing to try and navigate which fats to be including, or avoiding in your diet.
While you don’t need to understand the complete in’s and out’s of fats, it is important to understand what different types of fat there are and the common sorts of foods that they are found in. Not to sure which fats to go for? Here’s our handy ‘traffic-light guide’ to choosing fats:
Different Sources of Fats
Not all dietary fats are created equal. Some are extremely beneficial, whereas others can be detrimental to our health. It is important to understand what different types of fat there are and the common sorts of foods that they are found in so you can begin to navigate the fats in your diet. Use the guide below to help you:
TRANS FAT > AVOID
Processed fats (hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated and interesterified), margarine, pastry, cakes, biscuits, commercial salad dressings, canola, sunflower, soybean, canola, rapeseed & corn oil
* Trans fats are largely artificial fats that are made when unsaturated fatty acids are heated and chemically altered to turn them into solids in a process called hydrogenation.
SATURATED FAT > EAT IN MODERATION
Animal fats (such as those found in meat), cheese, milk, butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, ghee. Try to avoid too much saturated fat eaten alongside refined carbohydrates or sugar – as this is a recipe for chronic disease!
POLYUNSATURATED FAT > EAT REGULARLY
Essential fatty acids Omega-3 & Omega 6, oily fish, chia seeds, linseeds, walnuts, hemp oil
It's important to consuming more omega 3 fatty acids than 6. Omega 6 is very abundant in the western diet so just focus on getting your omega 3. The ideal ratio is 3: 1.
MONOUNSATURATED FAT > EAT REGULARLY
Avocado & avocado oil, nuts, seeds, olive oil
Aim for a thumb size portion of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats with each meal, to keep those fat dependant processes fuelled up, and to leave you feeling satisfied and nicely full.
So, now what type of fat you should be eating, but how much fat should you be eating?
There is no one size fits all answer. While some people thrive on a high fat diet while others really don’t. But, what we do know for sure is that you can’t eliminate fat altogether. Fat should not be feared as fat is essential to overall health. The brain is made up of 60% fat and fat helps the body produce hormones, regulate fat storage, absorb vitamins and some fats even feed cells in our colon.
For each individual, the ideal amount of fat in his or her diet depends on a variety of different factors, but on average, most people should be getting at least 20-25% of their daily macronutrients from a variety of high quality fats. Whether it’s eating an avocado, drizzling olive oil over your salad, or cooking with ghee, or snacking on a handful of nuts and seeds in the afternoon, you can easily reach this goal by making sure you include at least one type of healthy fat at every meal.
How Much Fat Do I Need Per Day?
Approximately, we want to be aiming for 30% of our total energy intake to come from dietary fats, which works out at 70g/day based on a average adult diet of 2000 calories.
Sources of Fat
What fats should you be cooking with?
In addition to the types of fat and how much fat we should be eating, there has also been a lot of discussion over the past few decades as to ‘what deems a fat or oil the most safe to cook with?’. For some time it was believed that the smoke point of an oil was the ultimate marker for safety, however a recent Australian study has shown that this is actually a poor marker of the stability and the safety of a cooking oil!
We now know that the oils with the highest smoke points, trans fats (the vegetable and seed oils in our traffic-light guide) actually produced the most toxic by-products after heating. It is these compounds that are linked to a whole host of serious stuff such as increasing your risk for heart disease, stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and cognitive decline!
This study has shown that infact it is the stability of an oil is the best marker for determining nutritional safety of an oil.
The study found that extra virgin olive oil was the most stable and safest oil for cooking, whilst also boasting extremely high levels of antioxidants. Making it both the studies and our number one for cooking with!
Extra virgin olive oil was closely followed by coconut oil in terms of stability, but extra virgin olives antioxidants properties were 700x higher than coconut oil.
In contrast, canola oil and other vegetable and seed oils have poor oxidative stability and virtually zero antioxidants. This means they break down easily with heat and produce much larger amounts of toxic by-products… even despite their higher smoke point.
If you want to read more about the study click here.