As we saw in part 1, the fats in our food come in two distinct types: Saturated and Unsaturated. Unsaturated fats can be in a cis or trans configuration. Cis fats are healthier for us than trans fats. Polyunsaturated fats have special group of fatty acids called omega fats, which have a wide variety of health benefits. You can read more about omega fats here. Not all saturated fats are unhealthy fats. Medium chain fatty acids, like lauric acid, stay as a liquid in your body and do not harden in our arteries like larger saturated fats. Our bodies also process medium chain fats differently, using them right away as an energy source instead of storing it.
A Healthy Diet
The recommended daily caloric intake for a health individual is 2,000 calories per day. These calories should be obtained from proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Getting all three sources in your diet is very important if you want to get healthy or stay healthy.
The recommended daily intake of protein is 20-35% of your total calorie intake. If you consume 2,000 calories daily then this comes out to 45-77 grams per day. Another equally efficient way to figure out how much protein to eat each day is to convert your weight from pounds to kilograms. Your weight in kilograms is roughly the amount of grams of protein you should eat daily. If you are an athlete or body builder, your protein intake (in grams) should be at least 1.2 -1.4 times your body weight (Body weight (lbs) x 1.2 = total protein (in grams)) For example, the recommended protein intake for a 150 lb athlete would be: 150 lbs x 1.2 = 180 grams of protein.
Your recommended intake for carbohydrates varies depending on the source of carbs. What kind of carb you eat can dramatically impact how your body responds. Carbohydrates come in two types: Simple and Complex. Simple carbs (like sugar) digest very quickly and cause your blood sugar levels to spike then crash. Complex carbs take much longer to digest and provide a steady stream of fuel to your cells.
Most of your carbohydrate intake should come from complex carbs. Nutrition experts say you should get 45 – 65% of your daily nutrition from carbs. However, it’s safer to aim for about 40% of your daily caloric intake because of the increasing rate of diabetes in recent years. This is roughly 130 grams or so of healthy, carbohydrate rich, foods that are made up of complex carbs daily.
Concerning your fat intake, adults should consume about 20-35% of their daily calories as fat. If your total caloric intake is the recommended 2,000 calories per day, you should eat about 45-77 grams of fat per day.
Of the 45-77 grams of fat you consume, 75% should be unsaturated fats with the other 25% coming from saturated fats. This means that 34-58 grams of the fat you consume daily should be essential fats, which are the omega 3 and omega 6 fats.
These fats are essential fats because our bodies can not make them on their own. You must obtain them from your diet.
The Omega Fats
There are five types of Omega fats in foods: Omega 3, Omega 5, Omega 6, Omega 7 and Omega 9. There have not been many studies done on the health benefits of Omega 5, Omega 7 and Omega 9 fats. However, they are found in the seeds of certain plants and fruits like sea buckthorn, which is quite healthy.
The most essential of these fats are the Omega 3 fats. These fats have several health benefits ranging from improving your heart and brain health, reducing inflammation, and reducing your risk for cancer. The most important omega 3’s to get are DHA (Docosahexanoic acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid). Ultimately, the form of omega 3 our bodies use is DHA. Our bodies can convert EPA very efficiently. Another important Omega 3 fat is ALA (Alpha-linelenic acid). Our bodies can convert this omega 3 into DHA but not very efficiently. There is no official recommended daily intake for omega 3’s. However, experts suggest anywhere from 250 mg to upwards of 1000 mg of DHA daily or a fish oil supplement that has 250-300mg of EPA and DHA.
Omega 6 fats are healthy as well. They also have a positive effect on our bodies much like Omega 3 fats do. However, our current diets have provided us with a large amount of Omega 6 fats and virtually no Omega 3 fats. Evidence suggests that humans around the world evolved on a consistent diet with a 1:1 ratio of omega 6’s to omega 3’s. Today, the ratio around the world averages from 15:1 to 17:1. The ratio is even higher for Americans, ranging from 20:1 to even as high as 50:1. When in balance, Omega 6 and Omega 3’s act as anti inflammatory compounds. When out of balance, Omega 6 fatty acids can have a negative effect on your body. They end up promoting inflammation and increasing your risk for heart disease and cancer. It can also increase your risk for chronic inflammatory conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis.
Sources of Omega 3’s
To help get your recommended amount of omega fats, try some of these foods.
This popular fish can contain around 500 mg of EPA and DHA in 1 ounce. 1 serving of salmon is 6 ounces so you can get up to 3000 mg of EPA and DHA omega 3’s in just 1 serving. Go for wild salmon since farm raised salmon are usually fed grains.
Cod Liver Oil
Contains over 2500 mg of EPA and DHA Omega 3’s in 1 tablespoon. As a bonus it may also have over 200% and 300% of Vitamins D and A respectively depending on the brand you buy.
Can contain 1100 mg of EPA and DHA in 1 tablespoon of red or black caviar.
2500 mg of ALA omega 3’s per cup.
4900 mg of ALA omega 3’s per ounce
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet contains foods that come from plants. These include fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, and wine. Seafood is the primary source of protein. Goat meat, sheep’s milk cheeses and yogurts are important sources of protein as well.
About 35% of the calories in the Mediterranean diet comes from fat and the primary source of that fat is Olive oil, which is a monounsaturated fat.
Like the Omega fats, monounsaturated fats are healthy for you. They may not be on the same level as omega 3 fats but they are a close second. They carry many of the same or similar health benefits as omega 3’s and other polyunsaturated fats. They are the bulk of the fats naturally found in plants, fruits like Avocado and Olives, and legumes like peanuts and soy.
Some studies have shown that a diet high in monounsaturated fats may have some negative health benefits. However, this may be due to the fact that these oils are omega 6 fats. There is a strong correlation between a diet high in omega 6 fats and an increased risk for certain diseases. Read more here.
Sources of Monounsaturated Fats
9 grams per tablespoon.
16.5 grams per ounce
21.8 grams per ounce
20.4 grams per ounce
Cod Liver oil
13.5 grams per tablespoon
Saturated fats can be found in animal meats and dairy foods and through the hydrogenation of unsaturated fats. Animal meats and dairy tend to contain larger saturated fats. We don’t need too many of these types of saturated fats. They have the highest number of calories of all fats. Unless you are a very active person, you are likely to gain weight if you consume too many saturated fats. However, these fats do contain a lot of energy and our bodies need some of this abundant energy in order to function. Tread lightly with these fats but do not eliminate them entirely. Limit yourself to 1-2 ounces per week.
Sources of Saturated fat
9 grams per ounce
9 grams per ounce
8 grams per ounce
Healthy Saturated fats
These are the saturated fats you should be aiming for. They are medium chain fatty acids that our body converts into energy pretty quickly instead of storing it away in our fat cells. They have a wide range of health benefits and still provide you with plenty of healthy calories.
Sources of Healthy fats
12 grams per tablespoon, more than half is lauric acid.
Palm Kernel oil
11 grams per tablespoon, more than half is lauric acid.
Butter/Ghee (Clarified butter)
7 grams per tablespoon, also contains lauric acid.