Of the three macro nutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fat, fats are by far the most complex. Ensuring that your body is running optimally requires a little more effort than knowing your total fat intake, as there are very specific fats that you need in your diet and in very specific ratios.
First of all, let me just clear the air about fat. There has been a tsunami of bad press about fat consumption since the 1980s, back when it was popular to go on a low fat diet. Low fat diets aren't entirely terrible, but in the grand scheme of things they don't make much sense. Fats are much more energy dense than the other macro nutrients weighing in at 9 calories per gram (as opposed to protein and carbs' 4 calories and alcohol's 7). So naturally it makes sense to cut out some fat from your diet if you're trying to lose weight. Just don't cut out TOO much.
Fats are essential for forming cell membranes and the communication of different cells in your body. Without fat consumption, you'd be dead. Your body would slowly (and painfully) shut down. Another benefit to fat consumption is that fat sits in your stomach longer than carbs or protein do, making you feel more full for longer periods after eating. Also, many vitamins are fat soluble, meaning you can't digest them without the presence of fats. Consuming vitamins A, D, E, or K without something fatty to break it down is literally pointless.
Cashews: Rich in healthy unsaturated fat
Some fats can be created in your liver using fragments of other nutrients, but some cannot, making them absolutely essential to incorporate in your diet (we'll get into that in Part II). For this article I'm going to breaking down one kind of fat. A nasty kind of fat known as trans fat.
We've all heard people talk about the detrimental effects of consuming trans fat or have seen food labels that claim that it has zero trans fat. Why are food companies so scared to list trans fat on their nutrition labels?
Donuts: The cake, frosting, and filling ALL contain manufactured trans fats!
Well for one, the FDA has figured out a clever way to deceive you. Anytime you look at a nutrition label and see 0 grams of trans fat, beware. According to the FDA, 0g of trans fat actually means that there is less than 0.5 grams in that particular food. This is something that makes tracking this nasty nutrient a little difficult, which sucks, because you shouldn't consume more than 1 gram of trans fat per 1,000 calories!
Man made trans fats were originally created so that vegetable oil could be used as an alternative to butter. So, many food manufacturers began boiling hydrogen into these oils in order to make a more saturated fat, thereby upping the oil's viscosity so much that it could easily be spread and used as a butter substitute. After all, would you want to cover your toast in pure vegetable oil? Hell no, I mean, unless you're a fan of oily, soggy toast.
So why are they so bad for you?
Back in the day, scientists thought that they figured out a completely legitimate way to convert unsaturated fats into saturated ones. Several extremely biased studies even pointed to trans fats being healthier than cis saturated fats!
Normal saturated fats increase levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol in the body. However, trans fats spike your LDL (bad cholesterol) but also lowers your HDL (good cholesterol) levels. In other words, consuming too many trans fats can easily lead to very adverse health problems including heart attacks or strokes. Eating these fats also put you at a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Some trans fats are naturally occurring in certain meats, but there is zero evidence to support that these fats have the same negative effects that manufactured trans fat have.
Sources of man-made trans fat:
The best course of action would be to minimize the consumption of trans fats in your diet, your arteries will thank you!