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Nutrition Resources

The Role Of Dietary Fats


Fats – a word that often carries a negative connotation, yet these macronutrients are vital for our well-being. In reality, when consumed in the right amounts and under the right circumstances, fats can aid in weight loss and maintaining a healthy body composition. It’s crucial to dispel the myth that eating fat equates to gaining fat. What truly leads to weight gain is an excess of calories, regardless of their dietary source. For a more in-depth look at this concept, explore my fact sheet on “Energy Balance & Systems.” But for now, let’s delve into the world of fats, why our bodies need them, how to optimise their consumption for your health goals, and more.

What Is Fat?

Fat is one of the three macronutrients, alongside carbohydrates and protein. It’s unique in that every gram of fat provides a hearty 9 calories, making it a dense source of energy. This information comes in handy when calculating your daily nutritional needs. However, not all fats are created equal, and their impact on health can vary significantly. To navigate this world effectively, it’s essential to understand the different types of fats and their roles.

Saturated Fat

Saturated fats have a rigid structure and are solid at room temperature. They can be found in both animal and plant-based products, including whole milk, butter, cheeses, creams, lamb, pork, beef, coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter, and palm kernel oil. Consuming too much saturated fat regularly can lead to severe health problems, such as cholesterol buildup in your arteries. This can increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. Recent studies have shed light on saturated fats not being as detrimental as once believed. Nevertheless, it’s widely recommended to limit saturated fat consumption to around 20 grams per day.

Trans Fats

Trans fats, formed during food processing, exist in both natural and artificial forms. While minimal intake may not have a significant impact on health, long-term overconsumption can be considerably damaging. Common sources of trans fats include margarine, fried foods, baked goods, non-dairy coffee creamers, shortening, microwave popcorn, refrigerated dough (used for pizza bases, rolls, biscuits), and frozen pizza. Artificial trans fats, also known as industrial trans fats or partially hydrogenated fats, are particularly hazardous. My recommendation is to avoid these fats completely, or if consumed, do so very sparingly, perhaps only once a week.

Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fats, often liquid at room temperature, offer more flexibility. This category includes monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, Omega-6, and Omega-3 fats, often referred to as healthy fats. They can help lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and decrease the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. You can find unsaturated fats in foods such as avocados, olive oil, peanut oil, canola oils, seeds (like flax and chia), nuts (including almonds, macadamia, and Brazil nuts), eggs (the yolk), and oily fish like mackerel, salmon, trout, pilchards/sardines, and herring.

Why Do We Need Fats?

Fats serve several crucial functions in our bodies. Firstly, they provide a source of energy, and they aid in the absorption of “fat-soluble vitamins” such as A, D, E, and K. To maximize the benefits of fats, aim for a balanced diet that incorporates them into each meal. Essential fatty acids, which the body cannot produce, must be obtained through diet. Fats also play a significant role in hormone functioning, and hormones, as you may know, have profound effects on your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Healthy fats can reduce insulin resistance in individuals who are overweight, obese, or have diabetes. Conversely, studies have shown that consuming trans fats can increase insulin sensitivity and promote fat storage. To optimise hormone health, ensure you include a proper portion of healthy fats in each meal. This promotes the release of hormones such as leptin, peptide YY (PYY), GLP-1, and cholecystokinin (CCK), all of which contribute to feeling satisfied and satiated, supporting your journey to maintain fitness and health. For more information on hormones, I invite you to explore my other fact sheets.

Healthy Food Sources For Fat

Defining “healthy” when it comes to food is indeed a nuanced journey, dependent on individual goals and health requirements. It’s essential to view our dietary choices through the lens of our personal objectives. For example, if you are dealing with morbid obesity, prioritising weight management is crucial for your overall health and well-being. This might entail reducing calorie intake, opting for lower-fat options, and increasing protein consumption. Conversely, if you’re underweight, a diet rich in calories, protein, and moderate amounts of fats and carbohydrates can be beneficial. The truth is, everyone’s dietary needs are unique. Consulting with a professional coach can provide invaluable insights into understanding your priorities and tailoring a diet that aligns with your specific goals.


When it comes to selecting sources of dietary fats, it’s generally advisable to focus on plant-based and fish sources. Here’s why:

  1. Unsaturated Fats: Plant-based fats and fatty fish are often rich in unsaturated fats, which have been associated with numerous health benefits. These fats are heart-healthy and can help lower bad cholesterol levels.

  2. Nutrient Density: These sources are not only excellent for their fat content but also packed with essential vitamins and minerals, contributing to an overall nutrient-dense diet.

  3. Satiety: Plant-based fats and fatty fish tend to be satisfying and filling, helping you maintain a sense of fullness and control your calorie intake more effectively.


Saturated Fats: While saturated fats are not as detrimental to health as once believed, moderation remains key. A small amount of saturated fat in your diet can be beneficial. It’s generally recommended to limit saturated fat intake to around 20 grams per day. You can find some saturated fats in dairy products, red meats, and certain tropical oils like coconut and palm oil.


Trans Fats: On the other hand, trans fats, whether natural or artificial, offer little to no health benefits. These fats should be minimized and ideally avoided altogether. Trans fats can be found in processed and fried foods, baked goods, and certain margarines. They are known to pose health risks and are best omitted from your diet or consumed very sparingly, perhaps no more than once a week.

Ultimately, the path to a healthy diet is a personalized journey. Consulting with a coach can help you navigate the intricate relationship between your dietary choices and your unique health and fitness goals. It’s about finding a balance that works for you and supports your well-being, taking into account your individual circumstances and objectives.

Example Fat Content For some Food Sources

Food Fat per 100g
Avocado Oil 100g
Sesame Oil 100g
Cod Liver Oil 100g
Olive Oil 100g
Coconut Oil 99g
Macadamia Nuts 76g
Pecans 72g
Pine Nuts 69g
Brazil nuts 67g
Walnuts 65g
Dried Coconut 64g
Almond Butter 56g
Smooth Peanut Butter 52g
Cruncy Peanut Butter 50g
Almonds 50g
Peanuts (Raw) 49g
Food Fat per 100g
Cashews 44g
70% Dark Chocolate 42g
Flax Seed 42g
Egg Yolk 31g
Chia Seed 31g
Granola (Generic) 24g
Mackerel 18g
Hummus 18g
Avocados 15g
Green Olives 15g
Salmon 13g
Canned Sardines 12g
Tofu 9g
Hummus (No additives) 9g
Rolled Oats 6g
Baked Beans 5.2g

How Much Fat Should You Eat?

This largely depends on you health and goal requirements as we mentioned before. For weight and health maintenance, assuming your near the “average person” age and gender considered then the national guidelines for fat intake are a good bench mark for daily guidance. However if you have certain goals or eating styles (Keto, Fasting etc) then this can impact the amount of fat and other macros you my need / require. Take a look on the next page for possible eating ratios to help with fat loss or to improve health conditions.

Understanding Macronutrients (Macros)

Macronutrients are the cornerstone of your daily dietary intake, providing the essential nutrients your body needs for various functions. There are three primary macronutrients:

  1. Carbohydrates: These are your body’s primary source of energy. They are broken down into glucose, which fuels your cells and activities. Carbohydrates can be found in foods like grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

  2. Proteins: Proteins are vital for building and repairing tissues in your body. They are composed of amino acids, which are the building blocks of life. Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, and plant-based options like beans and tofu.

  3. Fats: Dietary fats are essential for overall health. They provide energy, support cell growth, and help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). Fats also play a role in hormone production and maintaining healthy skin. Healthy sources of fats include nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, fatty fish, and certain dairy products.

Macronutrient Split Charts

Here are some charts to illustrate how you can distribute your daily calorie intake among these macronutrients based on your individual goals and health needs:

Balanced Macronutrient Split (for general health maintenance):

  • Carbohydrates: 35-55%
  • Proteins: 25-40%
  • Fats: 25-40%

Weight Loss (Low-Calorie Diet):

  • Carbohydrates: 25-45%
  • Proteins: 35-50%
  • Fats: 20-35%

Muscle Gain (Higher Protein Diet):

  • Carbohydrates: 40-50%
  • Proteins: 30-40%
  • Fats: 20-30%

Low-Carb Diet (Ketogenic or Atkins):

  • Carbohydrates: 5-10%
  • Proteins: 20-30%
  • Fats: 60-75%

Heart-Healthy Diet (Lower Saturated and Trans Fat):

  • Carbohydrates: 45-55%
  • Proteins: 15-20%
  • Fats: 25-35% (with an emphasis on unsaturated fats)

Please keep in mind that these charts are general guidelines and should be adapted to your specific needs, preferences, and goals. The ideal macronutrient split can vary widely from person to person, and it’s essential to consult with a qualified nutritionist or dietitian to create a tailored plan that aligns with your individual requirements.

Additionally, remember that the quality of the foods you consume within these macronutrient categories is crucial. Focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods, and limit processed and sugary items for optimal health and well-being.

Common Macro Split Ratios


Your Health Goals And Eating Fats

As I alluded to before fat can actually help you loose weight. So how is this so? Fat digests much slower than other nutrients and therefore can keep you fuller for longer (satiated), also providing sustained energy, in turn this can mean you are less likely to be hungry later on and potentially reduce overeating. Because fat is such a good nutrient at providing energy, when we overeat fats they can be easily stored in adipose tissue (body fat). That said should you be a person that rushes their food (I’ll admit I fall guilty of on occasion) because fat is higher in calories per gram, it is far easier to overeat these which in contrast can cause weight gain. For this reason a lower fat diet can be beneficial when trying to loose weight. The national recommended guidelines for balance fat consumption is 70g-90g (women and men respectively) total fat per day and up to 20g of this coming from saturated fat.Body composition is very important. Your body will function best with an appropriate overall fat percentage. Having a healthy body fat percentage provides many benefits, such as: temperature regulation, stable hormone levels, improved reproductive health, sufficient vitamin storage, good neurological function, better metabolism and balanced blood sugar levels.

The Run Down

This article aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of fats and their role in achieving various health and fitness goals. Here are some key takeaways that highlight the significance of fats in our diets and how to make informed choices:

Fats Are Essential for Good Health

Fats play a pivotal role in maintaining overall well-being. They contribute to balanced hormone production and can be instrumental in weight management, including weight loss. While the notion of consuming fats for weight loss may seem counterintuitive, research reveals that the quality and quantity of fats in your diet can indeed impact your body composition positively.

Caloric Density of Fats

It’s crucial to acknowledge that fats are calorie-dense, containing 9 calories per gram. This fact holds particular importance when considering weight loss. To shed 1 pound of body fat, a caloric deficit of approximately 3,500 calories is required per week. This equates to a daily calorie deficit of 500 calories. For example, if your maintenance calorie intake is around 3,000 calories to sustain your current weight, you would need to consume approximately 2,500 calories per day to achieve a weekly 1-pound fat loss. It’s worth noting that while this provides a fundamental guideline, the body’s complexity introduces dynamic factors such as metabolic adaptation, hunger hormones, and satiety hormones that can influence weight loss differently for each individual. Nevertheless, aiming for a 500-calorie daily deficit is a valuable starting point for weight management.

Choosing the Right Fats

The type of fats you consume matters significantly. Trans fats should be avoided altogether, while saturated fats should be limited, ideally not exceeding 20 grams per day. Conversely, unsaturated fats, predominantly found in plant-based sources and fatty fish, should constitute a substantial portion of your daily fat intake (approximately 70-90 grams of fat per day).

Understanding Fat Stores

Our bodies store fats in various ways, primarily as essential fat, subcutaneous fat (beneath the skin), and visceral fat (in the abdominal cavity and around organs). Among these, visceral fat can be the most harmful to health, as it is associated with an increased risk of metabolic disorders and cardiovascular issues.

Maintaining Low Body Fat Percentage

Achieving and maintaining a low body fat percentage requires a multifaceted approach:

  1. Caloric Deficit or Maintenance: Create a calorie deficit for weight loss or maintain a healthy weight with caloric maintenance.
  2. Adequate Sleep: Prioritise sleep as it impacts hormones related to appetite and fat storage.
  3. Regular Exercise: Engage in physical activity to burn calories and promote overall health.
  4. Healthy Fats: Include a moderate amount of unsaturated fats in your diet.
  5. Minimise Processed Foods: Reduce consumption of processed foods and liquid calories.
  6. High Protein, High Fibre Diet: Opt for a diet rich in protein and fibre to support satiety.
  7. Reduce Sugar and Salt: Limit sugar and salt intake to promote overall health.
  8. Moderate Alcohol: Consume alcohol in moderation, as it can contribute to calorie intake.
  9. Stress Reduction: Implement stress-reduction techniques as chronic stress can impact fat storage.
  10. Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water not only keeps you hydrated but also aids in fat mobilisation and oxidation.

Fat for Weight Gain and Energy

For individuals who are underweight or highly active, fat can be an invaluable component of the diet due to its energy density. Even in small quantities, fat provides a substantial calorie boost, making it beneficial for those looking to gain weight or increase energy intake.

Balanced Diet and Well-being

In summary, fats, when consumed within a balanced diet, can contribute significantly to satiety, overall health, and energy levels. They play a crucial role in hormone regulation, making them a vital component of any dietary plan. Whether your goal is weight management, improving health markers, or enhancing overall well-being, understanding the role of fats and making informed choices is an essential step toward achieving your objectives. Always consider your individual needs and consult with a qualified professional to tailor your diet to your specific goals and health requirements.