Fats (lipids) are an integral part of our diet and play a crucial role in our health. However, they are often mistakenly seen as unhealthy and fattening. In this article, we would like to shed light on the relevance of fats to the diet, explain how the body uses them, highlight the pros and cons of excessive fat consumption and introduce some important foods with healthy fatty acids.
The relevance of fats
Fats are an important source of energy for the body and serve as a carrier for fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). They also help maintain cell structure, support hormone production and enable the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients.
When we eat fats, they are broken down in our body and converted into fatty acids. The fatty acids are then used for various purposes. Some of it is used as a direct source of energy to support physical activity. Another important function is to provide the body with essential fatty acids, which it cannot produce itself but needs for numerous physiological processes, such as the production of cell membranes and the regulation of inflammation.
When do we burn fat
Maximum fat burning occurs almost exclusively during physical activity. In untrained people, fat burning is highest at about 50% of VO2max and in trained people at about 65%. Before and after this, it is reduced, but also takes place. According to current findings, it seems that women are better at burning fat than men. Another fact: There is no scientific evidence that dietary supplements can positively influence fat burning. So it's better to save your money and get some exercise.
The recommendation of the DGE (German Nutrition Society) is that only 30% of the required calories (basic metabolic rate of approx. 2000 kcal. per day) should be taken in via fats. If this is converted, this means about 80 g of fat per day for men and 60 g of fat for women, as well as a maximum of 300 mg of cholesterol. Please see these figures only as guidelines, because like everything else, they are unfortunately not based on the individual situation, but on statistical values. In reality, however, more unhealthy fat is usually consumed because it is hidden in many ready-made products.
Despite the importance of fats, excessive consumption comes with some disadvantages. Fat is a very energy-dense nutrient, which means that it provides more calories per gram (about 9 kcal) than carbohydrates (about 4 kcal) or proteins (about 4 kcal). If too much fat is eaten and the body takes in more calories than it can burn, this can lead to weight gain and obesity. In addition, high fat consumption increases the risk of cardiovascular disease because some types of fats, especially saturated and trans fats, which are mostly of animal origin, can raise cholesterol levels.
Healthy and unhealthy fats
It is important to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy fats. Unhealthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats, should be limited in the diet. They should not exceed 30% of the recommended amount (about 180 kcal). Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products or in solid plant products. However, they are also important in the diet, but could also be produced by the body itself.
Healthy fats, on the other hand, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, offer numerous health benefits. Foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are rich in these healthy fatty acids. These can help reduce inflammation, protect the cardiovascular system and improve skin and hair health. Flaxseed oil, for example, also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fatty acids that cannot be produced by the body. Healthy vegetable fats are usually liquid and you can tell from this that they are unprocessed.
Nuts in particular are a (hopefully not) secret tip for athletes, they are a fantastic supplement to increase calories through healthy fats and micronutrients.
Excursion to Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids keep cells stable, promote memory performance, strengthen the immune system and are effective against inflammation. That is why omega-3 fatty acids should be a daily part of the diet:
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in fatty sea fish and, for vegans, in certain algae eaten by fish.
- Alpha-linolenic acid is found in plant foods such as flaxseed or rapeseed oil, flaxseed (preferably ground) and walnuts.
Omega-6, despite the fact that it is essential, can be harmful to health in high quantities. Therefore, only take it in small quantities. According to the DGE, it is recommended to cover a maximum of 2.5% of daily calories with foods that contain omega-6. These fatty acids include linoleic acid, gamma-linolenic acid and arachidonic acid.
Our tip, there is vegan flaxseed oil with EPA and DHA from seaweed and it tastes fantastic in our cranola.
Summary on fats
Fats are crucial to a balanced diet. They serve as a source of energy, support various bodily functions and provide essential fatty acids. However, excessive fat consumption is associated with disadvantages such as weight gain and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. A balanced diet rich in healthy fats from nuts, seeds, oils can help to reap the benefits of fats, while unhealthy fats should be limited. So it's not about avoiding fats, but consciously integrating them into your diet through "healthy fats".