As a nutrient, fat doesn’t get a lot of love. It has one of the worst reputations in relation to health because people usually associate it with weight gain. But that’s not just because of its name. High-fat diets are known to pack on the pounds and increase the risk of chronic diseases.
That said, fat can be your friend as long as it’s the right kind. Consuming diets rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are the good kinds of fat, will do your body a huge favor.
Here are 7 great ways good fat benefits your body.
1. Fat Is A Macronutrient
Fat is one of the three major macronutrients that keep you full. Along with protein and carbs, you need it to survive. 20–35% of your daily caloric intake should be from fat. In addition, 45–65% should be from carbs and 15–20% should be from protein.1 With this general breakdown, you’ll be able to achieve a well-rounded diet.
2. Fat Provides Energy
Don’t forget that calories equal energy. Carbohydrates and proteins provide 4 calories per gram but fat offers more than double, coming in at 9 calories per gram.2 While you may cringe at the thought of calories, those 9 calories in the form of good fat can provide both nutrition and energy.
3. Fat Is Secondary Energy
Your body depends on carbs, or glucose, as the first source of energy. But what happens when you don’t get a chance to eat? Fat comes to the rescue, providing your body with the energy it needs.3
4. Fat Builds Cell Membranes
Fat is necessary for cell membranes. It makes up the phospholipid bilayer, which protects the insides of every cell. And any change in this membrane’s structure is linked to cell changes caused by aging and oxidative stress.4
5. Fat Promotes Vitamin Absorption
Fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E, and K – need fat to be properly absorbed by the body.5 These nutrients are crucial for good health, so fat has an important job.
According to a 2015 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, fat promotes vitamin D absorption. Many people become deficient in this nutrient, especially during winter. But, if a meal includes fat and a vitamin D-3 supplement, absorption of the vitamin will improve.6
6. Fat Supports Brain Health
Fat also supports nervous system function.7 Polyunsaturated fatty acids induce neurogenesis, or the production of neurons. As you age, this protects cognitive function and reduces the risk of neurodegenerative disease.8 The brain also contains fat mostly in the form of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of omega-3. 9
7. Fat Provides Flavor
Fatty ingredients can totally upgrade a meal. They also improve consistency, especially if your food is particularly dry or plain. The nutritional quality of a dish improves with healthy fats.
With the right choices, you can eat healthy fats every day. Eat more avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, fish (like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and trout), and olive, safflower, or avocado oil.
|↑1||Table, Macronutrients. “Dietary reference intakes for energy, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein, and amino acids.” (2005).|
|↑2, ↑3, ↑5, ↑7||Total Fat. Food & Drug Administration.|
|↑4||Jacob, Robert F., and R. Preston Mason. “Lipid peroxidation induces cholesterol domain formation in model membranes.” Journal of Biological Chemistry 280, no. 47 (2005): 39380-39387.|
|↑6||Dawson-Hughes, Bess, Susan S. Harris, Alice H. Lichtenstein, Gregory Dolnikowski, Nancy J. Palermo, and Helen Rasmussen. “Dietary fat increases vitamin D-3 absorption.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 115, no. 2 (2015): 225-230.|
|↑8||Poulose, Shibu M., Marshall G. Miller, Tammy Scott, and Barbara Shukitt-Hale. “Nutritional Factors Affecting Adult Neurogenesis and Cognitive Function.” Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal 8, no. 6 (2017): 804-811.|
|↑9||Docosahexaenoic Acid. PubChem, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.|