If you've been doing your homework on what constitutes a proper nutrition plan, you know by now that you must think beyond just calories. While calories will matter in the grand scheme of things and factor into whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight, there is much more to it than that.

Good nutrition is going to mean pairing together the right nutrients at the right times to foster high energy levels, a stabilized blood glucose level, and to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to ward off disease and repair any damage that takes place over the course of the day.

One type of food that is especially important with assisting with these roles is dietary fats. Gone are the days when everyone was in a 'low-fat' state of mind, seeking out the lowest fat foods they could find to add to their diet program.

Now, more and more people are realizing the fact that dietary fat may just hold the key to the better health state that they desire.

Consuming dietary fat does not mean you'll automatically gain body fat – far from it. In fact, dietary fat could actually help to reduce the chances that you gain body fat, so it'll work in your favor.

In this guide we're going to take a closer look at what dietary fat is all about so that you can see how you should be adding it to your diet plan. If you aren't careful and making wise decisions, your dietary fat consumption could hinder your goals and place you into a negative state of health.

It all comes down to choosing the proper sources of dietary fats and then getting the right volumes of them in for maximum success.

Let's take a closer peak into what you need to know about dietary fats.

The Types Of Fats

First we need to take a closer look at the specific types of fats in existence. Not all fats are created equally, so it's vital that you understand which will be your best allies when it comes to promoting optimal health.

The main types of fats that we'll be discussing can be divided up into different categories:

-Monounsaturated fats

-Polyunsaturated fats

-Essential fatty acids

-Saturated fats

-Trans fats

Let's take a closer look at each one more carefully.

Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats are one of the 'good guys'. These are the fats that are going to promote a healthier heart, provide a long term source of fuel, and help to improve your cholesterol profile.

These fats are going to have a double bond structure in their fatty acid chain and this makes them more fluid than some of the other fats you're going to come across. As such, you'll find them most often located in different varieties of oils.

The best sources of monounsaturated fats coming from oils include olive oil (virgin olive oil being the healthiest), flaxseed oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil, as well as peanut oil.

Note that these oils are not 100% pure monounsaturated fats. They contain a mix of unsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and saturated fat. The different oils contain a different percentage.

In addition to being found in oil, polyunsaturated fats are also found in avocados as well as nuts. Natural nut butters are also a good sources of these fats, so are important to include in the diet as well.

Polyunsaturated Fats

The next source of fat that you might consider adding to your diet plan is the polyunsaturated source of fat. This type of fat has more than one double bond on their fatty acid chain, hence the name polyunsaturated. These fats are the most liquid type of fat available and unfortunately can go rancid quite easily so care must be taken when storing and cooking with them.

The greatest source of polyunsaturated fats in the diet will be soybeans, peanuts, as well as fish oil. Fish oil is also a form of another fat, which we'll be talking about next.

Like the unsaturated fat variety, polyunsaturated fats are also important for promoting good heart health and keeping your body functioning properly.

Essential Fatty Acids

This brings us to our next type of fat, essential fatty acids. Of all the fat varieties, essential fatty acids may be the most important that you should be consuming. This type, as the name suggests, is essential for good health. Simply put, without it, you would not be able to stay alive long-term.

Essential fats are going to be imperative for boosting your brain health, keeping your heart healthy, improving insulin resistance, fostering a strong immune system, preventing depression, improving concentration levels, fighting inflammation, keeping your body lean, along with literally hundreds of other different roles that they play.

You don't need many grams of essential fatty acids per day, but make no mistake about it, you can't miss out on them.

The three different types of essential fats include ALA, along with EPA, and DHA, which are the omega fats. Most people in their diet today take in far more omega-6 fats compared to omega-3 fats, so the goal of your diet should be to bring up your omega-3 fat intake higher to promote better health.

Good sources of omega-3 fats will be grass fed meats, so switching from grain fed to grass fed instead is one of the best ways to accomplish this.

Other good sources of essential fats include fatty varieties of fish, walnuts, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, and fish oil.

Saturated Fats

Moving along, saturated fats are the next type of fat to be discussed. Contrary to popular opinion, saturated fat is not all bad. The body does require some saturated fat to maintain healthy testosterone and hormone levels, so a saturated fat-devoid diet would not be a healthy thing. In addition to this, saturated fat will also help to increase the absorption of calcium and foster a strong immune system, while improving the usage of the essential fats that we mentioned above. Saturated fats have a set of full double bonds on their fatty acid chain, hence they tend to be more solid fats. Ideally you should aim to keep your intake to around 15% of your total fat consumption.

You'll find saturated fat in higher fat meat sources, dairy products, eggs, as well as in butter.

Trans Fats

Finally, the last type of fat that you might encounter is the trans fats. Trans fats serve absolutely no purpose in the body and are only going to bring about ill-health effects. This form of fat is man-made and occurs through the hydrogenation process during the manufacturing of certain foods.

These fats are used to help improve the shelf life of many of the snack foods you purchase, so are highly attractive to food manufacturers.

The bad news is that these fats will cause much trouble in the body, bringing about inflammation, atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity, and can also compromise your immune system as well. There is also some evidence that shows that trans fats can help to increase the fat accumulation around the abdominal region, so for anyone who is trying to lean down their middle, they are obviously not going to be favorable in any way.

Trans fats don't occur naturally by themselves in food as they are created during the processing procedure, so you'll only find them in foods that such as snack foods, frozen foods, or baked goods.

So this wraps up the information that you need to know about the different types of fats in the diet. By eating the right types of fats, you can feel good that you are doing everything in your power to form a healthier body.

Fats For Energy

As we mentioned earlier, fats are one of the best sources that you can turn to for long-term energy. Having a good intake of dietary fats will help to keep your insulin levels stable, so at no point do you ever experience a blood sugar crash followed by decline.

The important thing that you need to remember with regards to dietary fats and energy however is the fact that they are only going to provide energy for lower intensity activities. The muscle tissues, by nature require that you feed them glucose if you expect them to perform intense physical contractions.

They simply cannot execute the intense exercise without glucose being present. So it must be noted that your fat and carb intake should vary depending on the type of exercise and activities you're doing.

For most of the everyday tasks that you complete, healthy fats will work perfectly. These activities are low intensity and will not rely on glucose as a fuel source. The body can break down and use the energy in dietary fats fine to fuel these actions.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is weight lifting and sprint training. For these activities, as the body needs fuel instantly, you're going to need a faster source of fuel – glucose. Glucose is broken down far more rapidly and thus can get into the muscle cells to provide the energy that they need.

So for before and after intense workouts, you want glucose to fuel you. This means eating plenty of fresh fruits, which are the most concentrated source of glucose in this diet.

Then during the rest of the day, turn to dietary fats for your energy source.

How Much Fat To Eat?

This brings us to our next question, how much fat should you be eating? How much is enough?

Your dietary fat intake is going to vary based on how active you are and what your bodyweight goal is. If you're trying to lose weight, you'll want to have a lower fat intake as this can help to decrease your calorie intake, creating the calorie deficit required for success.

If you want to build muscle and therefore require more calories overall, then you'll want to have a higher fat intake.

If you're seeking weight maintenance, then your fat intake will be moderate and will be exactly how many calories you need to reach your daily total that equates to what you burn.

Your fat intake should always be assessed after you've set your protein and carb intake. Since those two nutrients are much more regulated in terms of how much you should be eating, look at them first and then make your adjustments from there.

Remember that if you do eat too many dietary fats, you can still gain weight, so don't think that you can eat as much as you like without worry.

Adding Fats To Your Diet

Finally, it's also important to look at how to go about adding healthy fats to your diet. For best results, you should aim to eat them in conjunction with a good protein source along with some vegetables. The combination of healthy fats, protein, and dietary fiber is what will fill you up best and keep you satisfied for hours to come.

If you eat fats on their own, you may find that they don't fill you up that well as their satiety effect is not instant. Unlike carbs or protein which tend to cause you to feel full immediately after consumption, fats work by slowing down the passage of food through the digestive track, so work best when eaten with other nutrients.

This will also help you better regulate how much fat you eat, which is key to maintaining good calorie control.

So there you have all the important facts to know about your healthy fat intake. You definitely do want to make sure that you get this nutrient in line with your diet program properly because it's the nutrient that is going to help you feel your best and provide the fuel to get through

About the author: Shannon is a fitness trainer and freelance writer who has written for Bodybuilding.com.

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