Fitness Resources

Month: March 2017

3 Macro-friendly Desserts


Raise your hand if you have a sweet tooth! We do, too. Most people crave something sweet after a savory meal or if it’s been too many hours since the last meal due to a low blood sugar. While indulging in a sweet treat can be a part of a healthy, clean and balanced meal plan, most desserts are  big sugar (refined carbs) and fat bombs.

When your body receives a large influx of refined carbs from white flour and sugar, two main physiological actions occur in the body. First, the sugar intake triggers a large release of dopamine from the pleasure center of the brain. The “high” that you feel after eating a brownie, warm chocolate chip cookie or piece of angel food cake is short-lived. At the same time, your pancreas has to release a large amount of insulin to shuttle the sugar from your bloodstream into the cells where it will be used for energy. Excess amounts of sugar will be packaged into triglycerides and stored in fat cells for later use. Once the sugar has entered the cells, it is very common for blood sugar levels swing to the other extreme and become very low. As both blood sugar and dopamine levels fall, your body sends you signals to seek out more of the same, which will continue to elicit the same response in the body. And so the vicious cycle continues.

But all hope is not lost. There is a way to enjoy sweets and not have them wreak havoc on the body. The secret is two-fold: One, eat them right after a meal, and two, make sure that they have a better balance of macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat). More info about macros can be found here. Tweaking recipes to include more protein, fiber and healthy fats—the “triple threat” as we like to call them—will help to keep your blood sugar from rising and falling so quickly, and are slower to digest, allowing you to feel fuller for longer.

We’ve come up with three macro-friendly desserts that will satisfy any sweet tooth.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites 


(Makes 17 bites) – Gluten free, Grain free, Dairy free


  • 11 Medjool dates, pitted
  • ½ cup raw pecans
  • 1 ½ tablespoons ground flax seed
  • Pinch pink Himalayan sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
  1. Combine dates, pecans, flax seed, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until well combined. Pour into a bowl and fold in chocolate chips. Roll into bite-sized balls. Enjoy!

(Recipe courtesy of U Rock Girl!)

Black Bean Cupcakes


(Makes 36 mini cupcakes) – Gluten-free, Grain-free


  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed very well under cold water
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed mixed with 6 tablespoons water in a covered container, shake and let sit 15 minutes before using
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups chopped dark chocolate (preferably 65-72% dark)
  • Mini muffin tin
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners or spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a food processor, combine beans, eggs and flax solution. Blend 5 minutes.
  3. Add the baking soda and coconut sugar and blend 1 minute.
  4. Place the chopped chocolate in a glass bowl and heat in the microwave for 1 minute. Remove and stir. If not fully melted, place back in the microwave and cook for 15 seconds, stirring again. You want the chocolate to be about 90% melted. Continue to stir until all the chocolate is melted.
  5. Add the melted chocolate to the food processor and blend 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the food processor and blend another 30 seconds.
  6. Scoop about 1 to 2 tablespoons of batter into each muffin tin. Place in the oven and bake 12 minutes. Remove and let cool 10 minutes.

(Recipe courtesy of U Rock Girl!)

Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Shortcakes



  • 2 cups strawberries, stemmed and halved
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey, melted

For the shortcakes:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (grade B)
  • 1/4 cup melted virgin coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups almond meal or almond flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Freshly whipped cream (add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup when the cream is almost fully whipped)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Place the strawberries in a large bowl. Combine the vinegar and honey and pour over berries; toss to coat. Let sit 5 minutes.
  3. Place berries on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Roast 25 minutes. Remove and let cool.
  4. Combine the eggs, maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla extract in a food processor until frothy. Add the almond meal, salt and baking powder blend until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  5. Drop the batter using a ¼-cup measuring cup onto a lined and sprayed baking sheet (or Silpat). Bake for 25 minutes.
  6. Cut cakes in half; top one half with strawberry mixture and 2 tablespoons whipped cream or yogurt, then top with the other half of the cake.

6 Exercises to Stimulate Your Abs

December 8, 2016

shin balance leg lowering

When it comes to the abs there is training for “show” and for “go.” The distinction between form and function is often misrepresented as an either/or choice. But I believe you can have both—proper function and great looking muscles.


The abs get a lot of work in many non-ab exercises, but to get the look people are after when they think of “nice abs,” some direct abdominal training is typically necessary. Direct ab training also provides the additional benefit of giving you a sense of which muscles are working at various points in a movement.  This awareness allows for more accurate ab muscle contraction when you are doing full body exercises.


The abs also have several jobs to do:

  • They help us flex, extend and rotate the torso in everyday life.
  • They have to move at various speeds.
  • They create both movement (mobility) and prevent or accommodate movement (stability).

This challenging series of ab exercises hits upon all of the jobs our abs do.

A note about stability and mobility: most exercises exhibit both, but one of the two is considered the more dominant characteristic for each movement.

Shin Balance Leg Lowering

shin balance leg lowering

(Slow-Stability-Flexion/Extension) 10-15 reps

Performance Tips:

  • Extend and lower the legs only as much as the stability of your abs will allow. Any increase or decrease in the space between your low back and the ground means your abs are not maintaining a neutral low back. Once that starts to happen, you’ve gone beyond the limit of your range of motion.
  • The ball resting on the shins forces you to move slowly so pay attention to the feedback the ball provides.

Tripod Plank with Leg Switch

tripod plank with leg switch

(Fast-Stability-Flexion/Extension) 20-30 seconds

Performance Tips:

  • Maintain stiffness in the trunk and support leg.
  • Adjust work interval time as necessary to provide a challenge while allowing for solid performance. When your abs fatigue you’ll notice the early signs of slight arching in your low back. This should be avoided. It’s best to perform really well on a shorter work interval rather than perform poorly on a longer one.

Torso Offset Crunch on Ball

torso offset crunch on ball

(Slow-Mobility-Flexion/Extension) 12-18 reps

Performance Tips:

  • The recommendation to avoid crunches is an overstatement of their relative risk. This variation ignites more of your ab muscles by putting you slightly off-center from the ball.
  • You only need a very small shift to make this work. Less is more.
  • Move with slow, controlled intention through full range of motion.
  • Perform three reps shifted to one side; then perform the next three reps shifted to the other side. Continue alternating in this manner until you’ve finished the set.

Mt. Skater

mountain skater

(Fast-Mobility-Flexion/Extension and Rotation) 30 seconds

Performance Tips:

  • Try to create a little hang time and land with each foot wide.
  • When tucking the bent leg in, use the momentum from the quick movement to reach the bent knee toward the opposite arm.
  • Keep your hips low when you land as they may tend to creep up if you allow your feet to move closer to your hands.

Lateral Rolling Plank on Ball

lateral rolling plank on ball

(Fast-Mobility-Rotation) 8-12 reps per side, alternating

Performance Tips:

  • The start isn’t the hardest part; it’s the sides. You’ll need to hit the brakes as your body rotates around to finish with the ball on the back of your upper arm.
  • As soon as you stop rotating one way, reverse direction immediately. If you stop for too long, you’ll lose the stored energy in your muscles that you need to smoothly begin rotating to the other side.

Iso-Tuck Knee Tuck

iso-tuck knee tuck

(Slow-Mobility-Flexion/Extension) 12-15 reps with each leg tucked

Performance Tips:

  • Tuck the non-moving leg in as far as you can. This helps work the abs harder on that side and also helps prevent any loss of integrity in low back position when your other leg extends.
  • Move at a controlled tempo and resist the urge to speed up to finish as you fatigue. Ensure every movement of your body is happening because you are creating it rather than allowing momentum to move you.

Wrap Up

Start by completing one set of each of these exercises. Perform them three times per week. After two weeks, repeat the circuit of six exercises twice. You should feel a challenge when you do the workout and feel how you’re moving more mindfully in your abs when you aren’t working out.

Jonathan Ross
Jonathan Ross Contributor  Named the 2010 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, Jonathan Ross serves as ACE senior consultant for personal training. Owner of Maryland-based Aion Fitness, his passion for health developed after growing up with nearly “800 Pounds of Parents.” Jonathan has received numerous awards throughout his career. His book, Abs Revealed, delivers a modern, intelligent approach to abdominal training.

Improve Stability and Mobility with These Beginner Core Exercises

Fit Life

January 20, 2016

If you are beginning an exercise program, you have probably heard that developing core strength is important. Although true, your goal at the start of an exercise program should be to reestablish stability and mobility in your body, which begins at the center of mass and the core. Thus, you want to develop stabilization throughout the core and spinal column muscles and then progress to training the core by mobilizing the limbs and incorporating movement.

Following are two phases of core exercises. The first trains stability while the second phase focuses on mobility. It is best to develop stability before progressing to mobility. Start by performing each exercise for 20 seconds and gradually increase to 30 or more seconds as your fitness level improves. If the exercise involves movement, start with eight repetitions and progress to 12 as your core strength improves. Finally, start with two sets and eventually increase to three sets of each exercise.


Core Bracing

This exercise teaches you how to stabilize your core throughout the exercises that follow. Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms by your sides with palms facing forward. Contract the abdominal muscles for 10 seconds and continue to breathe deeply. You can progress this exercise by bracing the core and slowly lifting your right leg to 90 degrees in front of the body. Continue to alternate. The goal is to brace the core so that you are only moving the hip joint. You do not want to compensate with the torso or swing the leg with momentum. The slower the movement, the deeper you will brace the core.

Bird Dog

Assume an all-fours position, with hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-distance apart. Brace the core and extend your right leg behind you. Keep the foot level with the hip. Next, extend your left arm forward with the thumb facing upward. Keep the hand level with the shoulder. Hold and repeat on the opposite side.


Assume an all-fours position, with hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-distance apart. Extend the legs and place your weight on the balls of the feet. Keep the core braced and breathe deeply. To make the plank easier, keep the feet hip-distance apart; place the feet together to make the move more challenging.

Hip Bridge

Lie on your back and place the feet onto the floor, hip-distance apart. Keep the arms by your sides with palms facing the floor. Lift the hips upward to feel the contraction into the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and slowly release back to the floor, one vertebrae at a time.

Side Plank

Lie on your right side and place your right forearm on the floor. Bend the right knee to 90 degrees and lift the hips off the ground. Reach the left arm above the shoulder, with the palm facing forward.  Keep the right shoulder blade “down” and away from the ear. Hold and repeat on the other side.

Supine Toe Taps

Lie on your back and bend the knees 90 degrees. Activate and brace the core. Exhale and, while keeping the right knee at 90 degrees, lower the leg to “tap” toward the floor. Return to center and switch to the other leg. Alternate legs while maintaining core stability. Don’t let the spine pop on and off the floor.


Bird Dog With Elbow to Knee

Assume an all-fours position, with hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-distance apart. Brace the core and extend your right leg behind you. Keep the foot level with the hip. Next, extend your left arm forward with the thumb facing upward. Keep the hand level with the shoulder. Draw the left elbow and the right knee toward each other (most likely they will not touch) and then extend to the starting position. Complete one set on the first side and repeat on the opposite side.

Plank With Knee Drive

Assume an all-fours position, with hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-distance apart. Extend the legs and place your weight on the balls of the feet. Keep the core braced and breathe deeply. Slowly, draw the right knee in toward the chest and release the foot back to the starting position. Alternate between driving the right and then the left knee forward.

Moving Hip Bridge

Lie on your back and place the feet onto the floor, hip-distance apart. Keep the arms by your sides with palms facing the floor. Lift the hips upward to feel the contraction into the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. Hold for three seconds and slowly release the spine and hips back to the floor. Continue lifting and lowering for your set.

Side Plank with Rotation

Lie on your right side and place your right forearm on the floor. Bend the right knee to 90 degrees and lift the hips off the ground. Reach the left arm above the shoulder, with the palm facing forward.  Keep the right shoulder blade “down” and away from the ear. Rotate your ribcage toward the floor and draw the left arm under the ribs. Rotate back to center and extend the left arm. Continue your set and switch sides.

Supine Leg Extension

Lie on your back and bend the knees 90 degrees. Activate and brace the core. Exhale and push your right foot “away” to extend the right leg. Return to center and switch to the other leg. Alternate legs while maintaining core stability; don’t let the spine to pop on and off the floor.

Elizabeth Kovar

Elizabeth Kovar, MA, has studied yoga in five different countries. Her master’s thesis, “Creating Yoga Programs for People with Movement Disabilities,” was implemented on a 12-week study for people with Stage 1-2 Parkinson’s disease. Based in Seattle, she serves as fitness coordinator at a local recreation center.


Bio – Intervention — Making Your Health Span Match Your Life Span by Mark Mayes

Ponce de León supposedly searched for it in the New World. Herodotus thought it might be near Ethiopia. People have sought a fountain of youth for centuries. Disappointed by the fruitless search for a miraculous pool that could rejuvenate them, people turned instead to elixirs, creams, and cell-rejuvenating drugs—anything that offered glimmer of hope for retaining youth. No one yet has discovered a magic formula that can guarantee a never-ending life span. Diet and exercise researchers, however, have made significant progress discovering ways to extend one’s health span and, thereby, one’s life span.


William Evans, Ph.D. and other researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University (HNRCA) have identified ten biomarkers that may slow down the aging process. “Advanced age is not a static, irreversible biological condition of unwavering decrepitude,” Dr. Evans says. “Rather, it’s a dynamic state that, in most people, can be changed for the better no matter how many years they’ve lived or neglected their body in the past” (14–15). Evans and his colleagues at the HNRCA have outlined the following ten biomarkers of vitality that they believe we can alter through exercise and proper nutrition: muscle mass, strength, basal metabolic rate, body fat percentage, aerobic capacity, cholesterol/HDL ratio, blood/sugar tolerance, blood pressure, bone density and regulation of internal body temperature.

Vital to extending one’s health span, according to Evans, is to concentrate on building muscle while decreasing fat. “Losing weight is the wrong goal,” he points out. “You should forget about your weight and, instead, concentrate on shedding fat and gaining muscle”. One might ask in reply, “I’m 65 years old, and I weigh much the same as I did when I was 21. How would increasing my muscle mass improve or extend my life?” As we get older, we lose muscle tissue at a rate of about 6.6 pounds per decade, and we tend to replace this lost muscle tissue with fat.

Muscle mass, Evans first biomarker, is a key component to other biological functions and in some way, affects the other nine biomarkers. A strong and toned musculature contributes to overall well-being, especially for older adults. Evans and other researchers have found that an increase in musculature:

  • increases the body’s metabolism, thus enabling one to burn more calories, which, in turn, helps decrease body fat.
  • increases one’s aerobic capacity because denser muscles require additional oxygen; an increased aerobic capacity allows one to be more active.
  • increases the body’s ability to utilize insulin, which decreases the chance of developing diabetes later in life.
  • helps one maintain a high level of HDL cholesterol— “good cholesterol”—in the blood.
  • adds to bone density because strength training and other exercises that increase musculature also stress bones, causing them to become harder.


Many researchers believe that old age is not a time to relax and become idle. Many of the diseases and much of the deterioration that we see in our bodies during our senior years can be prevented or mitigated through exercise. Improvements in Evans’s second biomarker, strength, provide abundant examples.

Among many misconceptions concerning the bodies of older adults are that they cannot improve their strength or that they should not stress their muscles the way that a younger person does. Studies reveal that between the ages of 20 and 70, we lose almost 30 percent of our muscle cells due to inactivity. But research at Tufts has shown that a decline in muscle strength and size is not inevitable. Through strength training, a 70-year-old male could regain the strength of a 20-year-old sedentary male.



Another misconception is that with old age comes an increased likelihood of falling. Evans, however, has demonstrated that the increased incidence of falls in seniors is caused by a decrease in muscle tissue and strength in the legs. With the decrease in muscle mass the ability to balance and stabilize the body also decreases.  Falling in one’s senior years is not due to age but rather to a sedentary lifestyle and a lack of exercise!


Our body’s ability to shed fat and burn calories at rest is called basal metabolic rate (BMR), Evans’ third biomarker. BRM is an indicator of how efficiently our bodies break down tissue and release energy so we can perform daily functions. However, if we take in more fuel (calories) than our bodies can use given our BMR, those calories are stored as fat. After age 20, our BMR drops by about two percent every decade. But studies have shown that no matter what our age, through exercise and increased muscle mass we can stop this decline and even restore our BMR and our ability to burn calories.The fourth biomarker, percentage of body fat, is directly related to increased disease in older individuals. Excess body fat places an added stress on the heart and increases the chance of stroke and diabetes. Seniors have the ability to lose fat weight—the same as a younger person—through diet and exercise.







Aerobic capacity is Evans’ fifth biomarker. It describes the body’s ability to move large amounts of oxygen through the bloodstream to tissue in a given amount of time, a process that depends on a good cardiopulmonary system—the heart, lungs, and circulatory mechanisms. It is true that aerobic capacity declines 30 to 40 percent by age 65. However, the decline is less pronounced in individuals who exercise regularly. Evans believes that inactivity in seniors reduces the muscles’ oxidative capacity and causes the muscular fatigue that many aging people experience. Exercise physiologists have shown that seniors who start to exercise make greater improvements to their aerobic capacity than younger adults. Certainly, older adults who have been inactive and then begin to exercise have much more room to improve, but it’s important to note that drastic improvements to aerobic capacity can be made even in advancing years.






Everything in the supermarket these days seems to claim to be cholesterol-free; cholesterol is Evans sixth biomarker, but what is it? Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the body that is a necessary component in cell membranes and certain sex hormones. It circulates in the bloodstream and is associated with a protein called lipoprotein. There are several types of cholesterol that we need to be concerned with: HDL, LDL, and VLDL. HDL is known as “good cholesterol” because it helps remove plaque or LDL from the arteries. LDL and VLDL are known as “bad cholesterol” because in excess, they can cause a narrowing of blood vessels. As with the other biomarkers, several factors influence our control over cholesterol: genetic make-up, a lack of exercise, obesity, and diet. All but one of these components can be altered through lifestyle changes—we have little control over genetics.

If the body produces too much cholesterol or if one’s diet is high in cholesterol, lipoproteins can start to collect in the body tissue. “Atherosclerosis” is a condition in which excess lipoproteins collect in the blood vessels, and it can eventually develop into heart disease and other circulatory problems. Since the body produces its own cholesterol, it is NOT important that we include it in our diet, but we should be concerned about consuming foods with too much of it. LDL and VLDL levels can be lowered through changes to our diet, but according to the latest studies, HDL can only be increased by lowering body fat and through exercise.



The body’s ability to control blood sugar is the seventh biomarker. With advancing age, the body’s ability to take up and utilize blood sugar decreases. This, in turn, causes the sugar level in our blood to rise, which can develop into mature-onset diabetes, also known as “type 2 diabetes.” By age 70, 20 percent of men and 30 percent of women have an abnormally high blood sugar level. Researchers have found that a decline in sugar tolerance is due to a decrease in the activity level of older adults, an increase in body fat and reduced muscle mass, which leads to a reduction in the body’s ability to absorb insulin. The body produces insulin to regulate the level of sugar in the blood; insulin causes the muscles to use the sugar for energy. The bodies of older adults cannot absorb insulin as readily because their muscle mass has been reduced as they have aged. This lack of muscle mass also continues the cycle of fat storage; excess sugar in the blood that is not used over time is converted to body fat. Age, however, has been shown NOT to decrease one’s ability to influence blood sugar.

Blood pressure is Evans’ eighth biomarker. Increased blood pressure is caused primarily by obesity; smoking; a high-fat, high-salt diet and a lack of exercise. Heredity and race do have some effect on blood pressure, but even considering risk factors beyond our control, blood pressure can be controlled with medication, diet and exercise. High blood pressure, or hypertension, does not have to be a limiting factor for the older person. Scientists at Copper’s Clinic for Aerobic Research in Dallas found that people who maintained their fitness level had a 34 percent lower risk of developing hypertension.





Bone density, the ninth biomarker, is, in part, affected by hormonal changes in women, poor eating habits, deficient calcium absorption and a sedentary lifestyle. Research has shown that an individual’s bone loss is about one percent per year. “Osteoporosis” is a substantial bone loss that increases the risk of bone fractures. Osteoporosis is associated with growing old, but, Evans argues, “Osteoporosis is not a necessary or normal component of aging”. The loss of bone density can be influenced by diet and exercise. Researchers at Tufts found that women who exercise have a higher level of Vitamin D, which aids in the absorption of calcium. They also found that weight-bearing exercises that continually apply stress to the bone cause the bone to become harder. Research to date has not concluded that an increase in calcium intake prevents or slows the effects of bone loss. Tufts researchers combined high-calcium intake with exercise in their study and found that only exercise affected bone loss.


Biomarker ten is the body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature. The body has its own built-in thermostat, but the effects of aging can impair this control mechanism. In a typical older adult, cardiac output, including blood flow to the skin, is reduced. This diminished blood flow to the skin makes sweating harder for the older person’s body because blood flow brings heat to the skin, causing the body to sweat and release that heat. When the body cannot sweat, it cannot release heat as effectively, so it’s internal temperature rises. On the other hand, shivering, which is the body’s way to produce heat, is also decreased in older adults—primarily due to a loss in muscle mass. An inability to shiver makes it more difficult for an older person’s body to raise its internal temperature.The older adult who stay in shape is better equipped to keep his or her body’s internal temperature at a safe level through increased blood flow to the skin and through an improved BMR.

Unfortunately for us, Herodotus and Ponce de León’s searches were in vain.There is no magic formula to slow the aging process. The latest research shows, however, that it is possible to close the gap between one’s health span and one’s life span through regular exercise and proper nutrition. Dr. Evans’ ten biomarkers map it all out for us.

Mark Mayes founded Fitness Resources in 1991 and has over 30 years in the fitness industry. He is certified Exercise Physiologist by the (ACSM) American College of Sports Medicine  and ACSM Certified  for Seniors. Mayes works with individuals who wish to improve their health and fitness levels.


Reference: William Evans, Ph. D., and Irwin H. Rosenberg, M.D., Biomarkers: The 10 Determinates of Aging You Can Control, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991).






Fat: Friend or Foe? And How Much Should You Eat?

ACE Fit Life

Fat: Friend or Foe? And How Much Should You Eat?

February 23, 2017


For years we were told that eating fat would make us fat and increase our risk for heart disease. But now we’re told that the old recommendations were incorrect and we should be eating fat with every meal. So, who’s right? Well, it’s not a cut-and-dry answer. Let’s separate the fat facts from fiction to figure out how much each of us really should be eating.

In the late 1970s, there was a spike in sudden death from heart attacks and new legislation was passed creating the first set of dietary guidelines for Americans. We were told to decrease our intake of fat because fat increased cholesterol levels, which would increase the risk of a heart attack. As a result, the 1980s and 1990s saw the boom of the “fat-free” movement, and fat-free cookies, cakes and crackers flooded the market shelves. Pasta, rice, pretzels and bread became the focus of the diet because they contained no fat. People shunned olive oil, butter, nuts and avocados because they were high-fat foods. But instead of lower rates of heart disease, we saw an increase in obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. How could this happen?

High-carbohydrate diets, especially carbohydrates from processed foods, cause an increase in insulin production that can lead to fat storage and inflammation. Numerous studies over the past two decades that have compared high-fat/low-carb diets with low-fat/high-carb diets have consistently found that lower-carb/higher-fat diets promoted more weight loss and better lipid profile numbers. Population studies of people who consume higher-fat diets, such as the Mediterranean and France (French Paradox) approaches to eating, as well as numerous tropical regions, have shown lower rates of heart disease, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease. These diets also are high in fruits and vegetables and have little-to-no processed food.


Fat is one of three macronutrients (protein and carbohydrates are the other two). All fat contains 9 calories per gram, making it very energy-dense. Fat has many important functions in the body, including:

  • Energy
  • Hormone production – sex hormones, steroid, and cholesterol
  • Brain function and mood
  • Absorption of fat-soluble vitamins – vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Flavor – fat carries flavor and provides mouth-feel that improves meal satisfaction
  • Satiety – fat takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, so you feel fuller for longer


Fat can be divided into different types based on their chemical structure. Most foods contain a combination of these different fats, with one being the predominant type.


Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and can hold up well under high temperatures. Found commonly in avocados, olive oil and almonds, MUFAs get a big “thumbs up,” as numerous studies have linked diets high in MUFAs with reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes.


Also liquid at room temperature, PUFAs are a large category of fats that are better understood when further split into two groups: omega-3s and omega-6s.

OMEGA-3 fats are known to be anti-inflammatory and associated with lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression and obesity. Foods rich in omega-3s include wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, sardines anchovies, herring, chia, flax and walnuts. The two important forms of omega-3s are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and are found in fatty fish. Plant forms of omega-3s contain ALA (alpha linoleic acid), which has to be converted to EPA and DHA in the body. Unfortunately, this conversion is a slow process, but even so, plant-rich omega-3s, such as chia and flax seed, are high in fiber, lignans (a cancer-reducing type of fiber) and protein and should be consumed regularly.

OMEGA-6 fats are found widely in nut and seed oils and many processed foods commonly eaten in a Western diet. These fats can become pro-inflammatory when consumed in excess (as in a typical diet) and when omega-3 intake is low. The ideal ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s in the diet is 1:1 to 1:4. However, the standard American diet (SAD) has a ratio of 1:20 or greater! With a diet like this, it’s no wonder that chronic systemic inflammation plagues so many people.


Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and stable at high temperatures. Found in foods such as butter and lard, saturated fats can raise LDL (“bad” cholesterol”) but also raise HDL (“good” cholesterol). Once thought to be a major cause of increasing one’s risk for heart disease, saturated fats are now considered neutral in terms of their impact on health. Coconut oil, which is a saturated fat and high in medium chain triglycerides (MCT), is favored for its heart and brain benefits.


Although some trans fats occur naturally in dairy and other animal food, most are artificially produced and can be identified on a food label by the words, “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” Trans fats are commonly found in processed foods because they can help extend the shelf life of food. These fats are the most dangerous to consume as they increase inflammation, cause multiple alterations in lipid levels, affect arterial function, increase insulin resistance and promote excess belly fat. There is no recommended level for trans fats and should be avoided.


More important than quantity is the quality of fats you consume. Adding MUFAs, omega-3 PUFAs and/or MCT-rich coconut oil to every meal will ensure that you are getting enough of the right kinds of fat. Including fat at each meal will help you to feel fuller for longer, balance blood sugar level, and increase your satisfaction with each meal. Cook with virgin coconut or olive oil, add chia or ground flax seeds to smoothies or yogurt, spread mashed avocado on your sprouted grain toast, or snack on a mix of almonds, walnuts and pecans.

There’s no single recommended amount of fat to consume. How much you need depends on your calorie requirements for weight loss, gain, or maintenance as other health conditions you may have. The American Heart Association recommends a diet containing 20-35% of calories from fat. The Mediterranean diet usually averages 35-40% fat. A Ketogenic (low-carb/high-fat) diet clocks in at 50-75% of calories from fat. So many different recommendations can be confusing.

We have found that it takes a little experimentation to determine how much fat works best for each person. Just know, that when you increase fat intake, you need to decrease calories from another macronutrient so that you stay in energy balance to prevent weight gain (unless weight gain is your goal). Usually, we recommend that refined and processed carbohydrates be swapped for healthy fats.

For an idea of how much fat you should consume, we recommend the following calculation:

0.4 x body weight (lbs.) = ______

0.5 x body weight (lbs.) = ______

For example, using this calculation, the recommended fat intake for a 150-pound person is 60-75 grams of fat per day.


Fat is involved in many vital functions in the body and is one of three macronutrients that must be eaten each day for optimal health. Choosing high-quality fats is of primary importance and the total amount of fat you consume ultimately depends on your weight and health goals.

Rock Girl! ContributorTiffani Bachus, R.D.N., and Erin Macdonald, R.D.N., are the co-founders of U Rock Girl!, a website designed to nourish the mind, body and spirit of women of all ages and stages of life. They have just authored the rockin’ breakfast cookbook, No Excuses! 50 Healthy Ways to ROCK Breakfast! available at