Eat Like A Runner Series Day 3: The Skinny on Fats – Why We Need Fat in Our Diet
Day 3: – Why We Need Fat in Our Diet
For so many years we have heard over and over that to lose or maintain weight we need to eat a low fat diet. Period. While there is truth to this, there is a whole lot more to the equation. There are many types of fat and fat is not always bad. In fact fat is essential to many of our body functions. For instance vitamins A, D, E, and K, called fat soluble vitamins, require fat to dissove and nourish your body. Where a distincition needs to be made is the type of fat that we need to consume and the type that we need to avoid.
“Bad” fats increase your cholesterol and your risk of certain diseases while good fats do just the opposite. “Good” fats play a big in both physical and mental health. Fats provide essential fatty acids, which are not made by the body and must be obtained from food. They are important for controlling inflammation, blood clotting, and brain development. Fats are also an important energy source. When the body has used up the calories from carbohydrates, which occurs after the first 20 minutes of exercise, it begins to depend on the calories from fat. This can be particularly important for endurance athletes like runners. It also helps to regulate body temperature and protects your bodies organs. As well, fat has been shown to help manage mood, control weight, fight fatigue and maintain healthy skin and hair.
The two main types of “good” fats are Monounsaturated fat and Polyunsaturated fat. Foods made up of mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature. One type of Polyunsaturated fat that studies have shown to be particularly beneficial in fighting coronary artery disease is omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish.
- Olive, Peanut, Canola, Sunflower and Sesame Oil
- Nuts (Almonds, Peanuts, Macadamia, Hazelnut, Pecan, Cashews)
- Peanut or Almond Butter (Natural is best)
- Vegetable oils (such as cotton seed, safflower, corn and soybean)
- Seeds (Sunflower, Sesame, Pumpkin, Flaxseed)
- Fatty fish (Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel, Herring, Trout, Sardines)
The types of fats that you should avoid as much as possible or eat in very small portions are Saturated and Trans Fats.
Here are some examples of the bad guys:
- High fat meats (beef, lamb pork)
- Chicken with the skin
- Ice Cream (Sorry. Just eat in small portions occasionally)
- Hot Dogs
- Bacon and Ribs (Sorry for that one. I know it hurt some of you)
- Lard, Margarine, Butter and Shortening
- Cocunut, Palm and other Tropical Oils
- Commercially-baked desserts like cookies, doughnuts, muffins and cakes
- Packaged Snacks (Chips crackers and microwave popcorn)
- Fried Foods (French Fries, Chicken Nuggets, Breaded Fish)
- Candy Bars
The bottom line is that “low-fat” is not the answer but rather “good fat.” 20-30% of your daily calories should come from fats and the vast majority of those should come from the good fats. Remeber when calculating however that fat contains more than twice as many calories per gram. 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories. Do your homework and find those foods that will give your body what it needs.
Check out tomorrow’s post about good pre and post workout and race foods for runners.