When people find out that I am a certified personal trainer, the discussion frequently moves from working out to eating right. Although being a personal trainer does not mean one is a registered dietitian or a certified nutritionist, personal trainers do understand how important good nutrition is for our clients achieve their fitness goals. For this reason, we spend a lot of time studying books, articles and our own eating habits to learn more about food and its impact on the human body.
The nutrition topic that is top of mind for me, right now, is fat. To be more specific, it is the fear of fat. For over the past three decades, we have been told to reduce our fat consumption in order to be less fat and to reduce heart disease. As evidence has shown, that was a big, fat failure. While we have taken fat out of food, we have increased our consumption of sugar and other less-than-filling carbohydrates. I do want to make it clear, this is not a carb bashing article. I am a fan of quality, whole carbohydrates, but not when they are used in place of something that was supposed to be there in the first place– like fat.
Because so much can be said about this topic, I’ll keep it to this tasty morsel: there are some great benefits to eating fat. Check these out:
Fat Fills You
If your breakfast typically consists of cereal, skim milk and orange juice, you likely experience feelings of hunger or a sense of craving something long before lunch. That’s one reason it’s so difficult to reject the donuts in the office break room, even when you had what you thought was a “full” breakfast. Yogurt is another common breakfast item. You may load up a refrigerator shelf with fat free yogurt, thinking this is a healthy, protein rich food. Yes, yogurt is a good source of protein, but the fat free yogurt also includes a high amount of sugar that makes it taste sweet, but it does not satisfy your hunger for very long. In addition to this, the extra sugar isn’t providing any benefit to your body and is likely a contributing factor to additional, unneeded body weight. If you like yogurt, you are going to love an organic yogurt with the fat included. Simply add some fresh fruit, and you have a great way to start your day. If you had a choice of eating 300 calories that will satisfy your hunger for a long time, or 300 calories that will cause you to feel hungry within an hour, which do you think is best? By reducing fat intake, Americans have increased their calorie intake, and much of that has included empty, harmful calories.
Fat Improves Brain Function
You likely have heard that Omega 3 fatty acids are a heart-healthy fat option. They also have been shown to improve mood, memory and the ability to learn. In his book The Depression Cure, Dr. Stephen Ilardi shows how including Omega 3 fatty acids in one’s diet plays a key role in overcoming depression (along with 5 other lifestyle factors).
Some sources for Omega 3 fatty acids are salmon and other wild fish, walnuts, flax seed, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds. Some research has shown that taking Omega 3 fatty acid supplements has not proven to provide quite the same benefit as getting your Omega 3’s directly from food. Be good to your brain, so it can work well for you. Include some delicious fatty fish recipes in your diet.
Fat Helps You Better Absorb Nutrients
If you eat a big, veggie-filled salad topped with fat-free dressing, you may be missing out on some quality nutrients. Even when it was unpopular to say so, researchers found that significantly more carotenoids were detected in the blood after eating salads with dressings that included fat compared to salads eaten with no-fat dressing. Carotenoids, which are found in deeply-colored fruits and vegetables, are natural antioxidants that contribute to protecting our cells from the damage that is part of the physiology of both aging and cancer (Huffington Post, August 1, 2011)
Take a good look at the foods you eat. Do they satisfy your hunger? Are they giving your body all that it needs to function well and help you be at the top of your game? If you would like to add fat to your diet that also includes some quality nutrients, consider the following:
- Coconut oil
- Walnuts, almonds and pecans
- Whole eggs (especially when they are fresh from your local farmer)
- Wild caught fish such as salmon, rainbow trout, herring and sardines
Since becoming a certified personal trainer, I have gained a greater understanding of how to make my diet work for me. I make a point of including fat in my meals and avoiding fat-free anything (unless it is naturally fat free). I prefer to make my own dressing out of extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. I also start my day with my own version of bullet proof coffee, and I enjoy snacking on almonds. I encourage you to evaluate the foods you are eating to make certain you are feeding your body with a diet that is well balanced and working for you.