When you hear that all types of fats are nine calories per gram, it can be easy to think they are all equal in their nutritional benefit. This is not true. Here’s the low-down on different types of fat and which you should eat and which you should avoid.
Trans fats are the kind that are added through processing. They are found in deep-fried fast foods and some packaged snack foods. The National Academy of Sciences, in a 2002 report, advised the American and Canadian governments that trans-fatty acids are not essential to health and provide no nutritional benefit to humans.
Saturated fats are found in many processed foods, but also can occur naturally, such as in fatty meats, butter and full-fat dairy products. The American Heart Association recommends that consumers limit their saturated fat intake to five or six per cent of their daily calories, as a diet high in saturated fats leads to raised cholesterol levels, a warning sign for heart disease.
Monounsaturated fats, unlike their saturated relatives, can lower cholesterol levels. Olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds are all great sources of monounsaturated fats. In the world of dieting, monounsaturated fats are known for their role in the “Mediterranean diet.”
Even if you’re not familiar with the term polyunsaturated fat, chances are you’ve heard of omega-3 and omega-6 when reading about of food. These omegas arepolyunsaturated fats, found in fatty fish, flax-seed, walnuts and soybean oil.
The bottom line
Triathletes looking to fuel their bodies to perform optimally should avoid trans fats, limit their consumption of saturated fat and opt instead for polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
Instead of buttering your toast in the morning, spread some mashed avocado. Instead of using full-fat dairy in your smoothies, use skim milk and add a serving of flaxseed. Instead of a steak marbled with fat, pick a leaner cut.