6 Sneaky Signs You Might Not Be Eating Enough Fat
The low-fat craze of the '80s and '90s has gone the way of perms and pleated pants—it's no longer the norm, due to the high-fat, low-carb keto and paleo diets at the top of the trends list. Yet some Americans, who aren't following those types of diets, are still falling short when it comes to fat. Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table, says, "Aim for 30 to 35 percent of daily calories each day from fat," suggests Taub-Dix. "I still have plenty of clients who seek fat-free products, and it's a nutrient that's definitely misunderstood by many people. A balanced diet is key."
Related: "Bad" Foods You Should Be Eating
So, what does that balance look like in terms of what you see on the nutrition label?
"Most adults should eat at least 60 grams of fat each day," says Ashley Reaver, RD, a registered dietitian at Ashley Reaver Nutrition LLC in Oakland, California. "This is a minimum amount, especially for females. Fat needs will rise from there as overall calorie needs increase, based on body size and activity level."
Recipe Pictured: Salmon-Stuffed Avocados
Translation: If you're active or larger than average, you'll need to add more avocados, almonds and albacore to your diet. (But before you do, check out the latest science about if *all* fats are actually healthy now.)
Science has proven—and the dietitians we spoke to agree—going too low in fat can impact your brain and your body. Read on for how to tell if you need to nosh on more nuts.
6 Signs You Might Need to Eat More Fat
Pictured Recipe: Goat Cheese & Chive Guacamole
You're Always Hungry
One of the many benefits of fat: It's super-satisfying.
"The body uses up carbs and protein very quickly. Fat, on the other hand, really slows down the digestion of food and provides substantial calories," Reaver says.
If you're ravenous again shortly after meals, try adding an extra fat source, such as a hard-boiled egg (yolk included) with your breakfast of fruit and cereal or a schmear of guacamole on your turkey sandwich at lunch.
You Frequently Feel Fatigued
Your body needs fuel to fire on all cylinders.
"Low intake of fat will likely lead to a low intake of overall calories," Reaver says. "Fat contains 9 calories per gram, significantly more than protein and carbs which each contain 4 calories per gram. Limiting fat intake will also significantly limit overall calorie intake."
The end result: You feel super-sluggish.
Related: 4 Good Foods to Eat Full-Fat
Your Joints Ache
Omega-3 fatty acids—found in salmon, walnuts, tuna, flax seed, and more—help maintain the structural integrity of every cell from head to toe, Reaver explains.
"Low levels of omega-3s and overall fats can results in a loss of flexibility in joints and increase inflammation in them, especially for active individuals," she says.
You're Catching More Colds Than Usual
Your sniffles might be related to not enough sustenance, rather than a seasonal sort of thing you assume it to be.
"Omega-3 fatty acids are also closely tied to inflammation and immune health. A low intake of fats—and therefore a low intake of omega-3s—can result in a weaker-than-usual immune system, leaving you susceptible to frequent bouts of the common cold or upper respiratory infections," Reaver says.
Your Skin is Dry
The saying "you are what you eat" does have some truth to it, and if you don't eat a lot of oil, your body won't have much to spare to maintain soft and supple skin.
"One of the biggest signs that you're not eating enough fat is dry skin, which can speed up the appearance of aging," Taub-Dix says. "Fat also helps your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins which can help you glow from the inside out." (The best Rx? Adding these healthy recipes for glowing skin to your menu.)
Your Brain Feels Foggy
Over the long term, following a balanced Mediterranean diet (including plenty of healthy fats from foods like olives and fish), leads to lower risk for cognitive impairment, according to a study published in the journal Neurology.
And in the short-term, eating enough of those aforementioned omegas keeps your brain bright.
"Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for maintaining the structural integrity of brain cells, too. If you are feeling 'off' mentally, this may be an indication that your fat intake is too low. Research also supports that omega-3 intake is linked to overall mood," Reaver says.
The Bottom Line
If you're experiencing any of the above symptoms, take a look at what you're eating at each meal to see if the culprit may be eating too little fat (or carbs or protein). Rather than going from one extreme (low- or no-fat diets) to the other extreme (high-fat diets, like keto), following a balanced diet that includes healthy amounts of all foods, is the golden ticket.