Does eating dietary fat make you fat?

Fat.

What do you think of when you hear this word?

The word fat tends to have a negative connotation attached to it. After years of being exposed to diet culture, I’ll be honest and tell you that my mind used to instantly go to body fat. Now that I have reframed how I perceive dietary fat, I no longer fear it and actually embrace this macronutrient. Now, I tend to think of dietary fat as nutrient-dense energy that fuels and nourishes my body. I also start day dreaming of my favorite foods that contain fat- avocado, nuts and nut butters, and seeds. Yum!

Try reframing in this moment by saying, “Fat is a nutrient that makes food taste good, nourishes my body, and keeps me alive and well!”. Go ahead. Say it out loud. There ya go! 🙌  Because that’s what it does. Just like carbs, fat should NOT be demonized. It is called a macronutrient for a reason. Macro, meaning large, and nutrient meaning nourishing our bodies. We just need to educate ourselves on how much our bodies need and from what sources. Let’s get started!

Starting with the basics, I’m going to break down two types of fat for you: saturated vs. unsaturated fat. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature (think butter, coconut oil, or animal fat). They contain single bonds that make the substance stable, which means it doesn’t oxidize easily. Therefore, this fat also takes longer to decompose. Saturated fat builds up in the blood vessels and arteries over time, especially when consumed in excess, leading to atherosclerosis and heart disease. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that a healthy individual eat <10% saturated fat of their total daily intake, while one at risk for heart disease consumes <7%.

Unsaturated fats are less stable and prone to oxidation and rancidity. So why are unsaturated fats favorable? Unsaturated fats do not clog your arteries like saturated fat does. It breaks down easier, and many monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats actually have heart health protective qualities (in addition to other health benefits). You heard that right!

In short, as long as you stay within the macronutrient range of 20-35% total daily intake of a healthy mix of fats, with <10% of saturated fat (<7% for those at risk for heart disease), your body should utilize that fat for essential bodily processes. So no, consuming fat does not make you fat, as long as you eat a variety of fats in a balanced manner. Note: some athletes or individuals with medical conditions may need MORE fat in their diet. When I was marathon training, my average daily fat intake was up to 40% because I was burning through so much energy.

I think the fear of dietary fat came from misinformation, but also the myth that dietary fat converts directly into stored fat on our body as adipose tissue. This is FALSE!

Other functions of fat include:

  • temperature regulation (insulation)
  • energy storage
  • makes up the lipid membrane of the cell and other bodily structures
  • aids in fat-soluble vitamin absorption
  • neuroprotective
  • cushions and protects our vital organs
  • are precursor to hormone production & secretion
  • omega-3s are anti-inflammatory

The list goes on!

As you can glean from the above, dietary fat is crucial to maintain life and a truly healthy body. There are even minimum amounts of body fat men and women should possess for health, especially women and maintaining their menses monthly (now recognized as the fifth pillar of health). This number varies with gender, age and other factors.

Fat-free diets that were followed by our parents are not the answer or way to go! Sure, some people with medical conditions may need to monitor their fat intake a little more closely than others, but once again, aim to stay within the macro range of 20-35%, and you’re good. Furthermore, the quality of fats you’re consuming DO matter.

Some great dietary fat choices include:

  • avocados
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • tahini (ground sesame that is used in hummus and now many dressings)
  • olive oil
  • olives
  • ghee (not for those limiting saturated fat though)
  • avocado oil
  • fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies)
  • full-fat, organic Greek yogurt or kefir (the reason I recommend organic for full-fat animal products is because toxins can be stored in animal fat)
  • cheese
  • eggs
  • coconut- coconut oil is fine but be mindful of serving size

In fact, you will want to be mindful with most dietary fat servings. It’s easy to overdo it, but that doesn’t mean you have to count the nuts and seeds you consume. That’s an easy road to forming disordered eating patterns. Just be aware and educate yourself (or seek education from me!) on what average portions look like.

I do suggest incorporating fat at most meals and sometimes snacks, for satiation purposes, among other reasons mentioned above. It just depends on what your particular diet and lifestyle look like. Once again, I am happy to help in any way I can, so if you have questions, feel free to reach out or schedule a nutrition consultation with me HERE.

How much protein should I consume?

Another common question in nutrition is: How much protein do I need? Before I break this down for you, let’s start with what protein is.

Protein is one of the three macronutrients, alongside carbohydrates and fat. It is composed of amino acids, it’s building blocks. There are 20 amino acids that we focus on: 9 essential amino acids and 11 nonessential. Essential meaning that we need to get these amino acids from our diet since our body cannot synthesize them like the nonessential ones. Some nonessential amino acids become conditional in times of high stress, illness, or injury.

The nine essential amino acids include:

  1. histidine
  2. isoleucine
  3. leucine
  4. lysine
  5. phenylalanine
  6. valine
  7. tryptophan
  8. threonine
  9. methionine

Complete vs. Complementary Proteins

A protein source is considered complete if it contains all nine essential amino acids. All animal proteins are complete, but plant-based eaters may need to be more mindful of pairing complementary proteins to get their full dose in. A common example of this is rice and beans, since the limiting amino acid in beans is methionine and rice contains methionine.

What does protein do for us besides build muscle?

The main function everyone thinks of for protein is MPS (muscle protein synthesis), but protein contributes much more to our health! Protein also regulates the following physiological processes:

How much protein is currently being consumed?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans of 2020-2025 suggest that 3/4 of the U.S. population consumes over the recommended amount of protein. However, nearly 90% do not eat enough fish (the recommendation is 2-3 times a week of 4 oz servings), and more than 50% do not consume enough nuts, seeds, and soy products. It is good to differentiate your diet in general, proteins included, since you receive various nutrients from each source and feed certain gut bacteria 🦠 with each food.

How much protein do I need?

The Average Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for protein is 10-35%. That’s a wide range. We can also reference the Recommended Dietary Allowance of 0.8-1.0g/kg. This is the lowest recommendation, for those are sedentary or lightly active. If you are moderately to highly active, you may want to aim for a bit higher, say 1.2-1.5g/kg. Serious or elite athletes are looking at anywhere between 1.5-2.0g/kg. A study was conducted in 2016 to determine the safety and efficacy of the 2.0g/kg dosage. It results in determining that this was safe & healthy for those who engage in intense exercise.

Those who are ill, injured, pregnant, breastfeeding, require increased intake of protein due to increased energy demands.

You can calculate your protein needs yourself or consult with me to determine if you are over- or underestimating. If you are underrating and are not getting enough protein, you may experience:

  • frequent hunger
  • fatigue
  • longer recovery time
  • increased anxiety
  • poor sleep
  • exacerbated depression
  • weakness
  • hair, skin and nail issues
  • compromised gut health

So, where can you get protein from?

Here are some quality food sources:

  • organic, grass-fed beef
  • wild-caught fish
  • shellfish
  • turkey or lean chicken
  • duck
  • lamb
  • pork
  • pasture-raised eggs
  • milk, yogurt, cheese
  • nuts & seeds
  • beans & legumes
  • soy foods, such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk and edamame
  • seitan
  • protein powders
  • protein bars

In conclusion, every individual is different in terms of needs, activity level, current medical status, etc. that influence their protein needs. You can simply calculate your needs with the guidelines above, but know that they may not be 100% accurate. Feel free to schedule a consultation HERE to determine your macronutrient needs.

Lemon Blueberry Loaf

Hello all! I have been absent on this blog for a bit because I’ve been workin up a storm at my 3 jobs- 1 of which is nutrition counseling at my own private practice that I founded- eeek! 😆 It’s been very exciting to launch Danielle Cahalan Nutrition, LLC, but it has also been time consuming with behind-the-scenes tasks. I am also working as a per diem (as needed) clinical dietitian at a hospital, and I just put my two weeks notice in for my social media marketing director position of 2 years at All Access Dietetics. That job was wonderful as a student and intern and I am so grateful for the experience and what I learned along the way, but I no longer have the time and attention to dedicate to it.

With all of that said, I will have more time to focus on my private practice, and that includes more recipe development again- yahoo! If you’ve been following me for awhile, then you know an e-cookbook is one of the long-term goals. I was unrealistic with my timeline to launch this this past spring, so the new goal is to launch a compilation of delicious and healthy recipes by next summer. 🤞🏼

I’m jumping back into the recipe making’ game with this summer winner- a sweet & light Lemon Blueberry Loaf. I highly recommend pairing it with vanilla ice cream or yogurt with a drizzle of honey on top. Please enjoy and let me know what you think in the comments! I would love to get your feedback. ❤️

Lemon Blueberry Loaf

Ingredients

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups blanched, almond flour (3 cups of all almond flour should work just fine too instead of the coconut flour addition)
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Wet Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 lemon squeezed (about 2-3 tsp lemon juice)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 full egg, 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup honey

Other

  • Fresh blueberries (I’m sure you can use frozen too, but I haven’t tested this!)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Mix wet ingredients in a small-medium size bowl.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well, until no visible dry clumps are present. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to soak up wet ingredients.
  5. Fold in 1 cup blueberries. Add the batter to the lined loaf pan. Lightly press blueberries on top to make a design or dot the top.
  6. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, or until light golden brown on top.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting. Add lemon zest if you’d like. 🍋
  8. Top with whatever you’d like, such as ice cream, yogurt or honey, and enjoy!