What are healthy fats and what are they in?

For years fats were out of the question, especially when you wanted to lose weight. Not for nothing did everyone suddenly have to eat light products in order to be ‘healthy’. But are fats really that unhealthy? More recent research seems to contradict this. In fact, fats do have an important function. It is just important to maintain the distinction between good and bad fats! So which fats are healthy? And what are healthy fats in? How much fat should you eat if you want to lose weight, or if you want to gain weight? In this blog we put all the basic information together.

What are fats?

You can find fats in many products that you eat every day. Of course there are the obvious fatty products, such as oil and butter. Most people know that meat and fish contain fats, as do whole dairy products. But eggs, seeds and nuts are also important sources of fat.

Fats are also found in many unhealthy products. Not just chips and fries: cookies, snack sandwiches and ready-made meals, for example, are also often packed with fat. This is because it is a cheap way of giving them a fuller taste even with poor ingredients.

Because those types of products contain, in addition to fat, a lot of sugar and salt, and few good nutrients, they are not a good choice to get your daily fat intake. In addition, they often do not contain healthy fats either. We will therefore leave them aside in this article.

Are fats healthy?

We mentioned it earlier: not all fats are equally healthy. But does that mean that fat is always bad for you?

It certainly does not. The crux of the matter is that there are two different types of fats: saturated fats and unsaturated fats. These have very different effects on your body! We will therefore discuss them separately below.

Saturated fats

Saturated fats are fats that become solid at room temperature. Think of butter, for example, or the rim of fat in meat. Dairy products also contain mostly saturated fats, although they are usually not solid due to all the moisture in milk.

Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products, such as butter, meat and dairy products. The exception is fish: it contains mainly unsaturated fats.

The story that fats are unhealthy is mainly created by this category. Saturated fat has no healthy effect on your body. It causes a higher cholesterol level, so more fats in your blood. In time, this increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

This does not mean that you should never eat saturated fat. It does have a function in your body. But only in small to moderate quantities! The advice is therefore to get no more than 10% of your daily calorie intake from saturated fat. At more you increase your own susceptibility to all kinds of diseases.

Unsaturated fats

As a counterpart to saturated fats, there are unsaturated fats. This type of fat is liquid at room temperature. So, for example, this applies to oil.

Other sources of unsaturated fats are especially nuts and seeds. Avocado also provides unsaturated fat, and the same applies as mentioned for fish. As you can see, with the exception of fish, unsaturated fats are generally plant-based.

Unlike saturated fat, unsaturated fat is certainly not unhealthy. In fact, it plays an important role in all kinds of essential bodily functions. For example, healthy fats are necessary for:

  • Absorbing fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D and E.
  • The construction of cells.
  • Improve your resistance.
  • The health of your brain.

Clearly, it is better not to completely eliminate healthy fats from your diet! Yet many people still hesitate to eat unsaturated fats regularly. This is mainly due to the idea that fats – both saturated and unsaturated – make you fat.

Are fats fattening?

So what about that? Are fats fattening, or is that not so bad either?

It’s true that fats provide a relatively large amount of calories. From one gram of fat, your body gets as much as 9 kcal. With proteins and carbohydrates this is only 4 kcal. When you eat a lot of fats, you are therefore relatively easily above your calorie requirement – with the result that you gain weight.

Yet it is too short to say that fats are fattening. (Almost) nobody exceeds their recommended calorie intake with fats alone. Proteins and carbohydrates often still make up a large part of that. So yes, you can eat less by cutting out fats – but just as well by cutting out proteins or unhealthy carbohydrates. And particularly of the latter category, many people also eat far too much.

If you eat a sensible amount of fats, within a diet that is attuned to your personal calorie consumption, you will certainly not get fat. So there is no need to avoid healthy fats.

Lose weight with healthy fats

In fact, even if you want to lose weight, healthy fats are a very good choice! That may not seem so intuitive. After all, to lose weight, you have to eat fewer calories. And fats contain a lot of calories.

It is therefore wise to keep an eye on how much fat you eat while losing weight. But as said above: a sensible amount of fats can’t do any harm. In fact, it even has advantages to eat fats when you want to get slimmer! For example:

Fats satiate for a long time. Your body needs quite a bit of time to digest fat. This means that your stomach stays full longer, and therefore it takes longer before you get hungry again. Less appetite usually leads to fewer snacks, and so on balance you end up with fewer calories.

Fats stabilize your blood sugar. When you eat fat with a meal, the sugar level in your blood rises less quickly and drops less quickly. Therefore you avoid the notorious sugar trap, in which you quickly get hungry to solve the “shortage”. Also because of this, you suffer less from hunger and binge eating. Pretty handy when you’re trying to eat less!

Again: it is important that you do not eat too many fats if you want to lose weight. After all, you do want to maintain your calorie deficit. Further on in this article you can read how to calculate how much fat you should eat to still lose weight.

Gain weight with healthy fats

Do you want to gain weight? Then the use of healthy fats makes perfect sense. After all: to gain weight you need a surplus of calories. This is easier if you eat a lot of products with a lot of fats.

But beware, even if you want to gain weight it is still important to choose healthy fats. So don’t get mountains of chips and chocolate in the house to boost your weight! This will not keep your body in the optimal condition you need to build muscle and healthy body tissue.

So rather choose healthy sources of fats, like the products you find at the bottom of this article. This way you can keep your calorie intake high, but also make sure you get enough vitamins and minerals.

If you eat a lot of fats, it is important that you do not consume too much saturated fat. So if you want to gain weight, make sure you not only eat meat, fish and dairy products, but also regularly choose vegetable oil or nuts as a source of fat.

How much fat should I eat?

Whether you want to gain or lose weight, the question remains: what is a sensible amount of fats? The rule of thumb that is usually mentioned is to eat 1 gram of fat per kilogram of body weight. So if you weigh 80 kilos, then you eat about 80 grams of fat per day. Most of this you then naturally try to get from unsaturated healthy fats.

In some cases it can be wise to eat a little less fat. For example, do you have a very low calorie consumption? Then with so much fat you may not have enough room for the proteins that you also need. In that case you can reduce the quantity of fat somewhat.

Also, some people feel better when they eat more fats and less carbohydrates, for example. However, this is purely a matter of personal preference. So it is difficult to predict from a distance whether that would work for you.

What are fats in?

Finally, the question remains: where are the fats in your diet? Below we provide a list of high-fat products and some examples.

Behind each product we give the amount of fat it contains, in grams per 100 grams. The first number indicates the amount of saturated fats, the second number the unsaturated fats. So you should preferably eat products in which the first number is as low as possible.

Oil and butter

Oil and butter are of course the fattest products you can use in the kitchen: they consist almost entirely of fat. However, the composition of the type of fats is quite different.

  • Rapeseed oil (7g, 93g)
  • Sunflower oil (11g, 89g)
  • Olive oil (15g, 85g)
  • Margarine (16g, 64g)
  • Butter (54g, 27g)
  • Meat and fish

Fatty meats and fish are also rich in fats, as mentioned above. The ratio of fats can vary considerably from one product to another: processed meat, for example, often contains a lot more saturated fat. It is therefore wise to always check the packaging, even if you think you are making a healthy choice.

  • Beef sausage (6g, 9g)
  • Minced beef (7g, 9g)
  • Minced pork (4g, 7g)
  • Lamb (7g, 9g)
  • Salmon (2g, 9g)
  • Herring (2g, 10g)
  • Canned sardines (3g, 13g)

Note: Although meat appears to contain less saturated fat than oil, it is important to keep an eye on quantities and proportions. First, you often eat 100 grams of meat or more, while rarely using more than a tablespoon of oil. Thus, on balance, you are ingesting less saturated fat.

Second, the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fat is important. Oil contains about eight times more unsaturated fat than saturated fat; with meat the amounts are about the same. So if you get a lot of your daily fat from meat, you are quickly eating too much saturated fat. If, on the other hand, you use a lot of oil, the ratio remains good.

Dairy

Dairy, like meat, is mainly a source of saturated fat. However, with cheese it can make a huge difference which ‘number’ you choose. 20+ and 30+ cheese is a fine choice for a few slices a day, but higher numbers are better kept for now and then!

  • Whole milk (2g, 1g)
  • Full-fat yogurt (2g, 2g)
  • 20+ cheese (8g, 4g)
  • 45+ cheese (18g, 10g)
  • Mozzarella (13g, 7g)
  • Whipped cream (20g, 10g)
  • Crème fraîche (20g, 10g)
  • Nuts and Seeds

Finally, there are nuts and seeds as a source of healthy fats. Like oil, this category contains mainly unsaturated fats. So the daily handful of nuts is indeed a very healthy idea!

  • Almonds (5g, 51g)
  • Hazelnuts (5g, 58g)
  • Pecans (6g, 66g)
  • Pine nuts (5g, 45g)
  • Pumpkin seeds (11g, 36g)
  • Sesame seeds (8g, 47g)
  • Walnuts (7g, 61g)
  • Sunflower seeds (6g, 50g)

A good balance

Of course, the above overview doesn’t mean that you can never eat cheese and meat again, and that you have to chow down kilos of nuts every day. But it does show why it is important to maintain a good balance in your weekly menu.

Meat is not unhealthy because it contains saturated fats. Too much meat is unhealthy because of the saturated fats you ingest. So make sure you vary the sources of fat you get, and that you put enough vegetable food on your plate. In this way you can benefit from the advantages of all categories without having to suffer the disadvantages!

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