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NEWS | June 26, 2019

FATS – The Macronutrient Series

By Shari Wright West Virginia National Guard Dietitian

We’ll jump right in with what they do. Fats do a multitude of functions like provide energy, help vitamin absorption, maintain body temp, and serve as organ protection. I’ll elaborate. Providing energy means that after the body runs out of carbohydrate stores (glycogen) your body taps in to its fat stores to keep you moving. Fat helps with vitamin absorption and storage of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K (vitamins function will be addressed in a different postJ. Luckily most of us don’t have to worry about extreme temperatures but fat helps to protect us from the elements by insulating the body to keep heat inside. Lastly, it protects vital organs from trauma by being a protective barrier.

The different types of fat include unsaturated fat (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat), saturated fat, and trans fat. Mono meaning one double bond in the fatty acid chain and poly meaning it has more than one double bond on the fatty acid chain.

Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and predominantly found in plants. Unsaturated fats are thought to be the “healthy” fats as they can improve cholesterol, quell inflammation, and stabilize heart rhythm. Types of monounsaturated fats include olive, peanut and canola oils. Food sources include avocados, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and pumpkin and sesame seeds. Omega 3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat found in sunflower, soybean and flaxseed oils. Food sources include walnuts, flax seeds, and fish.

Saturated fats lack the double bond found in mono and polyunsaturated fats. They just differ structurally and thus perform differently in the body. Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products like beef, cheese and ice cream. Coconut and palm oil are the plant sources that are high in saturated fats. There are some studies to suggest limiting your saturated fat intake to avoid chronic disease while others tout the benefits of saturated fats. I’m going to maintain the position that quality matters. Eating a coconut is not the same thing as eating a pastry high in saturated or trans fats so go for quality, always.

Trans fats are found in manufactured foods like hydrogenated oils – hydrogen is pushed through the structure of the fat to aid in shelf stability of foods like peanut butter, basically so it lasts longer without spoiling. They’re also used in fast food restaurants because they’re “ideal” for frying.

While the generic recommendation for daily macro intake is 40 percent of your total calorie goal from carbs, 30 percent from fat, and 30 percent from protein, everyone's total caloric intake goals are different. That calorie goal is based on activity level, age, current weight, and weight management goals. If you download MyFitnessPal, you can view your macronutrient distribution daily. If you have any questions, or if you're interested in developing goals or creating an individualized macro plan, give me a call/text (304-719-8064), send me an email at shari.r.wright.ctr@mail.mil, or look for my Facebook blog @ShariWrightPettitRDN.

 

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