7 Reasons You Need More Fat In Your Life

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
Unfortunately, our culture tends to demonize fat. But it's actually necessary for your body and brain to function. "Many people are still stuck in the mindset that fat is not healthy, bad, or 'fattening,'" says Erica Leon, RDN. "Nothing could be farther from the truth." To illustrate, here are just a few ways fat helps us out. 1. It provides energy. We're taught to fear calories, but they provide the fuel we need to live, and healthy fats are a great way to get them. The calories in fat give us long-lasting energy and adequate body fat, says Leon. 2. It protects our organs. Fat surrounds the kidney, heart, liver, intestines, and other vital organs so that they're not easily injured. 3. It regulates our hormones. Fats make up prostaglandins, substances necessary for us to produce sex hormones. So, inadequate fat consumption can lead to infertility and a low sex drive.

4. It keeps us warm.

Fatty foods help build the layers of fat beneath the skin that stop heat from leaving the body, which insulates us in cold weather. Plus, the process of breaking down fats releases heat.

5. It's full of nutrients.

Fat contains vitamin A, which promotes eye health; vitamin D, which maintains our immune systems; vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects cells from damage; and vitamin K, which enables bone health and proper blood clotting. 6. It's necessary for brain health. Fat and cholesterol make up 60% of our brains. So, you need plenty of fat in order to think clearly. Fat also provides the essential fatty acids linoleic and linolenic acid, which help brain cells grow and communicate. 7. It helps your wounds heal. Lipids make up our cell membranes, allowing new cells to grow when old ones are damaged, and the vitamin A in fat helps heal our wounds and prevent infections.
Leon believes most Americans underestimate how much fat they need. Between 20% and 35% of your calories should come from fat, she says. The average woman in her 20s, for example, should consume about 60 to 73 grams of fat. That's the equivalent of 4 to 5 tablespoons of peanut butter, 13 to 16 teaspoons of butter, or 16 to 18 6-once cartons of 2% yogurt (though we wouldn't necessarily recommend eating that much butter in one sitting, unless it just really sounds awesome to you). Other sources of healthy fat include salmon, almonds, and avocado. Omega-3s, which can be found in nuts, seeds, and fish, are especially important. As a quick and easy way to get more healthy fats in your diet, you can cook with olive oil or coconut oil or switch to 2% or full-fat dairy. But as with anything, there is such a thing as too much fat, especially when it comes to trans fats, like the ones found in baked goods, and saturated fats, like those in red meat. According to the government's dietary guidelines, saturated fats should make up 10% or less of your daily calories to keep your risk of heart disease at a minimum. Overall, though, it's not healthy to cut out an entire food group — especially one with so many proven benefits. You need fat in your food and on your body, and you don't need to skip out on anything you enjoy to be healthy.

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