“Macros” is what all the cool kids call macronutrients. Macronutrients refer to the three basic components of every diet — carbohydrates, fat, and protein — with a bonus fourth, water. These are called macronutrients because they are the largest portion of any food and “macro” means “large”. Most foods have some combination of all the macronutrients, but they come in varying proportions. In this edition, we’ll discuss fats.
Long demonized as the cause of obesity and heart disease, fat is much misunderstood. Let’s take a look at the job fats do in our bodies. First, what are fats? Triglycerides, cholesterol, and other essential fatty acids are the group we commonly refer to as “fat”. Dietary fats are found in all kinds of foods, especially meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, and dairy. The assumption many make is that eating fat will make you fat, but that’s an over-simplified concept, in fact it can be dangerous to your health to avoid eating fat.
Fat is in charge of storing energy, insulating the body, and protecting organs. Fat acts as a messenger to proteins; telling them to do their job! It’s fat that starts the chemical reactions that help control growth, immune function, reproduction, and metabolism. Fats in the blood are the reason we’re able to create clotting to stop bleeding, they manage inflammation, and are a vital component in wound healing. We require fat to stockpile nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. Triglycerides (the main type of fat we consume) contain more than twice the energy carbohydrates and proteins do. Want to run a marathon? Don’t carb load, look to the good dietary fats to sustain you!
Last week we discussed essential amino acids in our protein edition. You may not be surprised to learn there are essential fatty acids (EFAs), too. These EFAs are based on the omega-6 group and the omega-3 group. We need them both to survive. EFA deficiency is common, as is a disproportionate intake of omega-6 fatty acids over omega-3 fatty acids. It’s key to eat the right foods to make sure that you’re getting a healthy balance of essential fatty acids. Diets high in processed and fried foods tend to contain excessive amounts of vegetable oils or partially hydrogenated oils (known as trans fats), which are high in omega-6 fatty acids; throwing the balance of fats way off, leading to disease precursors like chronic inflammation. This is evidence that a diet full of fresh foods from trustworthy sources wins the day, not that we should eliminate fat intake! Studies have shown that increasing our consumption of certain essential fatty acids, either alone or in combination with other fats and compounds, can increase health, help in treating certain diseases, and even improve body composition, mental and physical performance!
Fun fat fact: our brains are comprised of 60% fat, chiefly the fat called DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid if you want to be formal) which is an Omega-3 fatty acid. You’ll also find high amounts of DHA in the cerebral cortex, skin, and retinas. The greatest amounts of those omega-3’s can be found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and anchovies. Finding quality seafood can be challenging, but the Shopping Guide from Weston A Price Foundation is a great way to navigate those waters! You can pick up a copy of the guide at our office, or download the app here. It covers all categories of food.
In addition to getting your essential fatty acids from your food, you may benefit from supplementation. Nutrition Response Testing participants can have their EFA needs tested to help determine the best supplement for them at any Nutrition Response Testing appointment.