Fat is an energy dense nutrient
Fat provides our body with energy in the form of calories or kilojoules. Fat has almost double the energy content of protein and carbohydrate which makes is very energy dense. Most of our daily energy intake should still come from carbohydrate containing foods.
The energy content of macronutrients (kJ/ g):
Carbohydrate: 16kJ/ g
Making small cuts to dietary fat can make big changes to weight loss
Rehashing on the first point, it therefore makes sense that cutting down on the fat in your diet can make a significant difference to your overall energy intake. Making small changes here and there can make it much easier to lose those excess kilos. For instance, one slice of multigrain bread is 554kJ or you could save yourself 612kJ by cutting out one tablespoon of oil – the bread will also fill you up more and provide you with a range of nutrients, like fibre! You can also easily cut back by choosing lean cuts of meat, trimming fat off meat and forgoing margarine/ butter or sandwiches.
In saying that, fat is still an important nutrient and protein/ carbohydrate portions often need to be manipulated as well for weight loss. Saturated fats should be swapped for healthy fats and used in moderation e.g. olive oil, fatty fish, nuts/ seeds and avocado.
Fat is important for fertility
Fat plays an essential role in a woman’s fertility. If fat stores are too low, menstruation can be disrupted or menarche (the commencement of menstruation in young women) can be delayed. This is often seen in individuals who are underweight or those who regularly partake in strenuous exercise. Why does this happen? Adipose tissue (fat) releases the hormone leptin in to the blood – the amount released is dependent on the amount of fat stored in the body. When the level of leptin is high enough, the brain will then send the appropriate cues for ovulation to commence.
Alternatively, fertility can also be affected is a woman’s fat stores are too high.
Fat is essential for health
Some fat is essential for heart health, maintenance of healthy skin, mental health/ brain function, vision, protection of our organs and insulation from extreme temperatures. These benefits are obtained from healthy fats like fish, nuts and avocado – unsaturated fats.
Vitamins A, D, E and K require dietary fat to be absorbed. Individuals who suffer from fat malabsorption often experience deficiency of the fat soluble vitamins. Foods rich in unsaturated fats are good sources of vitamin E and are a source of dietary vitamin D. Adding some extra virgin olive oil to vegetables can actually increase the absorption of carotene (vitamin A).
Unsaturated fat has cholesterol lowering properties! However, steer clear of the saturated and trans fats.
Where your body stores fat is important
Fat stored around the abdomen will present the most danger to health. It’s not ideal to have a lot of fat in other places either, such as the hips, but this will not be as detrimental to health. Measuring waist circumference is a good way to determine central obesity and risk of lifestyle related disease like diabetes.
What is a healthy waist circumference?
Excess energy intake leads to fat storage
Carbohydrate is the bodies preferred source of energy. Therefore most of it is used up to fuel the body’s processes. When we take in more carbohydrate than our body can use, this carbohydrate will be stored as fat because there is less capacity for our body to store carbohydrate. This is the same for any excess fuel we consume.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about healthy eating, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns.
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