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Diets are something that comes under constant scrutiny and in this ever-changing environment, it is hard to decide what is good for you. Information overload is a real thing, and reading or knowing so many different sources can be confusing. But one fad that we can break down for you, is the myth that eating low fat means you will not gain any fat.
What are the different types of Fats –
Contrary to what you may believe, certain fats are good for your body and necessary for energy and cell growth. Good fats also help protect your organs and keep your body warm, along with producing certain hormones. There are four different categories fats can fall under i.e. saturated, trans, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.
Out of these categories, Trans fats (or the bad fats) are the ones you should be watching out for as overconsumption can lead to excessive weight gain. This will also lead to you exceeding energy requirements as those who weigh more require higher energy, a higher resting level as more energy is required to maintain a larger body. Trans fats increase bad cholesterol levels, but the monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats can help to lower bad cholesterol, making them essential to a balanced diet.
Why fat needs to be a part of your diet –
Following a low-fat diet may help you shed the kilos initially, but depending on your body requirements, it will limit the body’s ability to heal itself after being injured, influence bone health and prevent the absorption of various vitamins like Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and K.
So how do you know if your body isn’t getting enough fat?
Dry and flaky scalp and skin –
Fat in your body acts like a lubricant, keeping everything running and functioning better. While you may think that moisturising with creams or oils may help – it only benefits the top layer of your skin. You will find your skin feeling dry, flaky, and itchy if you aren’t consuming enough fat.
Poor body temperature –
Ever feel like you’re one of those people who are constantly cold and can’t leave the house without a jacket? People who don’t get enough fat in their diet often tend to feel cold as they don’t have a layer of fat giving their body the necessary padding to protect them from changing temperatures.
Mental fatigue and hormonal changes –
If your body is not getting enough fat, you could find yourself facing neurological abnormalities such as difficulty concentrating or remembering things, constantly feeling lethargic, and facing several hormonal changes due to a deficiency of essential fatty acids.
So what fats are good for you?
A mentioned above, there are four different types of fats.
Saturated fats are high in calories and provide twice the calories per gram of carbohydrates. Often linked to increasing cholesterol and clogging arteries, eating greater amounts of these fats are considered unhealthy. An easy way to understand what these fats are to see which ones are solid at room temperature. These include butter, cream, cheese, meat, coconut oil and cream, palm oil, and of course, processed foods like chips, packaged cakes and pastries, deep-fried food, and more.
Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, are healthy fats and an important part of a balanced diet. There are two types of unsaturated fats, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats include Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon, tuna, sardines; nuts like walnuts, canola oil, flaxseeds.
These fats also contain Omega-6 fatty acids, found in oils like safflower, soybean oil, sesame seeds, pine nuts etc.
Monounsaturated fats on the other hand are found in plant-based products, often the biggest ways to ramp up a vegan meal. They include avocados, olive oil, nuts like almonds, cashews, and more.
Is a low-fat diet good if I am bodybuilding?
While a low-fat ratio is desired for bodybuilders, especially if they are doing it competitively, a low level of body fat combined with low-calorie intake and higher levels of exercise may have several negative effects. These can lead to a decrease in sleep quality, negative mood swings, and a weaker immune system, causing you to fall sick more often. If you are not functioning well and more prone to illness, it might be difficult to work out effectively and meet the goals you are aiming for.
Fat mobilization may come handy during this time, and weight gain powders or protein shakes may be recommended, however regular consumption can affect your diet and are not considered good for your health in the long run.
According to Australian dietician Rebecca Gawthorne’s interview in Huff Post Australia (https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/11/19/9-signs-youre-not-eating-enough-fat_a_23279029/ ) when eaten in large amounts, all fats (including healthy fats) can contribute to excessive weight gain.
It is important to pay attention to your body requirements and understand the amount of dietary fat that should be a part of your balanced diet. Fat contains more kilojoules than other dietary categories, so eating less fat will result in weight loss, however it will lead to several of the health problems mentioned above.
Try to incorporate a diet where you consume more unsaturated (or good) fats in your diet instead of saturated and trans fats to regulate your food consumption.