Many people mistakenly believe that protein is the key of the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) we need for good health. However, protein is primarily a building block, while carbs and fats are fuels. Think about your car. It’s made of steel, but you don’t put steel in the tank to make it run. Depending on what kind of engine you have, you put gasoline or diesel in the tank.
Even bodybuilders eat more carbs than protein to fuel their muscle-building workouts. Protein helps with the muscle repair process after they are damaged during a weightlifting session (which makes them grow back bigger).
More and more health experts are recommending that you eat more fat each day than protein. Understanding the role of fats in your diet and the different types available will help you make better wellness and weight-management choices in your diet.
Fat is Good for You?
Without fat, you’ll die. The same is true with sodium, cholesterol, carbs and other foods fad nutritionists say are bad guys. Of course, too much of the wrong kinds of these foods can cause serious health problems. Saturated fats and the soon-to-be-eliminated trans fats are unhealthy. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, along with omega-3 fatty acids provide many health benefits.
Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy researchers estimate that almost 50,000 American die from heart disease annually because they don’t consume enough vegetable oils. The Mayo clinic says healthy fats can help reduce your “bad cholesterol” (LDL), which contributes to heart attacks and stroke, as well as improving “good cholesterol” (HDL) levels, blood vessel function and insulin levels.
Fats Help With Weight Loss
When you eat a low-fat diet, you might be eating more quick-burning and sugary carbohydrates, which leads to increased hunger after meals, which can lead to overeating. Fats leave you feeling more full and satisfied after a meal. That’s why some nutrition experts recommend drinking whole milk instead of skim. This doesn’t mean that you should go on a low-carb diet. You should eat healthy carbohydrates (buy the colors of the rainbow when you shop for fruits and vegetables) and add more healthy fats to your diet.
Where to Get Healthy Fats
Healthy fats can be found in vegetables, fish, nuts, seeds, beans, cooking oils and supplements. To learn which foods are the best sources, check out our blog post, Add More Healthy Fats to Your Diet for suggestions.
How Much Fat?
Low-carb fad diet proponents still recommend you eat a majority of your calories from protein. Credible organizations like the USDA, Harvard School of Health and others recommend you eat mostly healthy carbs, then healthy fats, and then lean proteins. The USDA’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines “…does not encourage a low-fat diet (meaning low in total fats) — in fact its healthy eating style examples can contain up to 35% of total calories per day from fat.”
The USDA recommends that most people should get 45 to 65 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates, 20 to 35 percent from fat, and 10 to 30 percent from protein. The USDA recommends that less than 10 percent of your daily calories come from saturated fats.
Watch the Calories
Healthy fats and the foods in which they come can be calorie dense. Nuts and nut butters, for example, can lead to packing on the calories if you don’t watch your portion sizes. Read nutrition labels to find out the calories per serving of foods you want to add to your diet, as well as the recommended daily intake of the fat content in the food.