Should we be eating more Fat? 

Yesterday a report by The National Obesity Forum Charity which criticised current government dietary guidelines for fat made headline news. The charity stated that we should be eating more fat and that low-fat high-carbohydrate diets are having a negative impact on health and obesity rates. There is a definitely a case for increasing the recommended fat intake as fats are essential for health and have many functions within the body. These include:

  • - Digestion & Absorption of vitamins: Vitamins A,D,E,K are referred to as fat soluble vitamins which require fat in order to be absorbed from food and stored within the body.

  • - Transport: Fats are a major component of cell membranes which act as a barrier around our body cells and control what comes in and out of the cell.

  • - Energy: Fat provides us with a significant amount of energy (9kcal per g) which our bodies need in order to function.

  • - Brain Function: Omega 3 fatty acids are found in high concentrations within the brain and are important for cognitive performance and memory.

  • - Nerve Function: Sections of nerves are coated in what’s known as myelin sheath which contains fat. Myelin Sheath allows rapid transmission of nerve impulses.

Things to consider when increasing fat intake…

Fat is energy dense as it contains 9kcal per gram whereas carbohydrates and protein contain just 4kcal per gram. Consequently, if foods high in fat are simply added to our diets without substituting them in for other foods the chances are it will cause weight gain. Therefore in order to accommodate for the addition of more fat other sources of calories need to be removed from the diet. The best way to do this is to reduce your carbohydrate intake. 

Healthy Fat Sources

To increase your fat intake you should consume a variety of the following foods as they contain lots of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as well as a little saturated fat:

  • - Nuts
  • - Avocados
  • - Seeds
  • - Eggs
  • - Oily Fish
  • - Olive Oil
  • - Coconut Oil 

What if I already consume a lot of fat?

If you already consume a lot of fat it might just be a case of changing the sources of fat you consume. Replacing processed foods such as biscuits and cakes which contain unhealthy trans fats with natural, unprocessed foods is beneficial for health (see list above). This is because not only do they contain healthy fats, they are also good sources of vitamins and minerals. 

Final thoughts…

Due to it’s involvement in many bodily functions  it is clear that fat is an important component of our diets and this supports the view of the National Obesity Forum that we should be eating more. However the report also states that as well as increasing our consumption of fat we should stop counting calories. This is where the report is flawed as eating more fat which is highly calorific, without keeping track of our energy intake will lead to an overconsumption of calories. This will therefore contribute to the high obesity rates rather than lower them.