Fat Facts and Fads

Contrary to previous thoughts, incorporating the right types of fat into your diet can actually improve your performance -- mentally and physically.

Fat and your diet had led to confusion for many years. A few years ago, we were told to avoid fat like the plague. Today we hear balancing fat into our diets is OK.

If I Eat Fat, Will I Get Fat?

Yes, excess calorie and fat intake will allow your body to collect fat. But fat that fits within your daily calorie allowance gets burned. Some people are better able to lose body fat when they eat a little fat with each meal because fat satisfies and curbs the appetite. Fat takes longer to digest than carbohydrates and helps keep you from feeling hungry.

How Much Fat Is Too Much?

The typical American eats a diet with about 34% of calories from fat. The American Heart Association recommends a diet which slightly restricts total fat to less than 30% of calories, and saturated fats like meats and cheeses to less than 10% of calories.

Health-conscious athletes sometimes believe if low fat is good, than no fat is better. This may not be the case. Those who aggressively restricted their dietary fat intake incurred two worrisome changes:

Higher triglycerides
Reduction of the "good" HDL cholesterol
Therefore, the extra effort to severely restrict fat may be less beneficial and counterproductive.

What about the Very Low Fat Diets That We All Hear About?

Yes, those diets have reduced heart disease -- but the people simultaneously lost weight, consumed abundant fiber-rich foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, whole grains), meditated and exercised. This package seems to be the key to success -- instead of the low fat diets with too many refined sugar foods and little to no weight loss.

What's an Easy Way to Reduce Fat in My Diet?

Remember that "low fat" differs from "no fat." A low fat diet with 20 to 30% of total calories from fat allows most active women to intake 40 to 60 grams of fat per day and most active men to intake 50 to 70 grams of fat per day. By choosing fewer fatty meats, greasy chips and added fats, you'll reduce your fat intake to a healthful level. This change can also create the calorie deficit needed to lose weight and enhance your heart's health. If you do not want to lose weight, add back calories -- either with extra fruits, grains and low fat dairy or olive oil, nuts, peanut butter and other unsaturated fats.