It’s quite ironic that most people today are lacking a good fatty acid balance in their diet, and are often deficient, which is a real cause for concern when we consider how important fats are in achieving optimum health. Fats compose about 15% of our body weight.
They provide an essential energy source – twice that of carbs and protein per gram!! Our brain and every cell membrane in the body is primarily made of fat. These are the two key mechanisms by which we react to our environment – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Fats are required:
for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D, and K.
to create neurotransmitters and healthy hormones.
to serve as a protective lining for organs as well as optimising protein usage.
for telling us when we are full (satiated) and FINALLY they taste flipping good – Embrace fat, the real issue with fat is it is all about the quality and balance.
A lot of the bad wrap is given to fats especially saturated fats which was and still is based on flawed science……. This mis-information has been around since Ancel Keys proposed the “diet-lipid-heart disease hypothesis” from the Seven Countries Study (ironically he studied only 7 countries out of 21 available – skewing the data to support the theory) , and is still supported incorrectly in certain quarters where vested commercial interest lies today. This has created a lot of fear surrounding fats, mis-information within a food industry creating foods and diets to reap financial rewards and pharmaceutical companies curing symptoms not causes blamed on fats, not supporting our individual health.
**TOP TIP** – a low fat diet is the least healthiest diet you can choose…………
There is only one bad fat and that is trans-fat, also called partially hydrogenated fat or hydrogenated fats.
Trans fats consumed at high enough levels have the triple whammy effect of increasing “bad” cholesterol, lowering “good” cholesterol and raising triglycerides — all of which can contribute to the risk of heart disease.
They do exist naturally in small amounts in dairy and certain red meats but the major players are the artificially produced industrial fats.
Trans fats may also be produced when ordinary vegetable oils e.g. maize oil, rape oil, soya oil etc are heated to fry foods at very high temperatures and this is one reason why takeaway foods can sometimes be high in trans fats. As they are heated they release aldehydes which are linked to cancer and other diseases.
^ The trans-fat is the one bad fat!
A large order of French fries can contain as much as 5 grams of trans fat, Onion rings and chicken nuggets are other fast food sources of trans fat. Pizza and pies can be significant sources as well, because the crusts may be made with ingredients that contain trans-fat. Cookies, cake and other packaged baked goods can contain 2 or 3 grams of trans fat per serving.
So long as food has less than 0.5g per serving it can claim zero trans fat !!! so as long as they recommend a low enough serving they can get away with it, hence Oreo biscuits which claim zero trans-fat actually do contain trans-fat – but at a level less than 0.5g per 3 cookie serving. Don’t believe the claims – read the label, they are designed to deceive. Labels have to identify saturated fats but not trans fats………….. how the food industry manipulates the information to suit.
So, if you eat a 2,000-calorie diet, you should consume less than 2 grams of trans fat per day (the target is zero !) . This is equal to about 20 calories, or about 2 potato chips or one-eighth of a chocolate chip cookie!!
Many oils including non trans oils e.g. rape oil, maize oil, vegetable oil etc have been highly processed and hydrogenated, this process uses heavy metals and high heat to give them better shelf life. Even cold pressed oils of this nature are still very fragile in nature breaking down under heat and should be avoided.
The rest are all players and can be good or bad, depending on their balance. The processing and the storage of fats and oils is very important, because some are far less stable than others. There are three things that can affect the quality of fats and turn them bad – heat, light and oxidisation. Good fats and oils need to be stored in airtight containers, away from direct light and heat. Some fats, the least stable are polyunsaturated fats and oils are best kept in the fridge, to stay fresh. Quality fats and oils will always come in a darkened glass bottle, to stop the oxidisation and to stop them going rancid.
**TOP TIP** – Never buy fat in a clear bottle, it has already started to go rancid!
All fats and oils are a combination of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
The most stable being the saturated fats and great sources of these are animal fats, butter and coconut oil. Saturated are the only fats we can safely bring to a high temperature for frying, baking and BBQ.
Monounsaturated include olive oil, avocado, sesame, almond, and peanut oils. Extra virgin, cold pressed are the best. These oils are perfect for drizzling over steamed veggies or salads.
Polyunsaturated, and great sources of these are fish oils and many seed oils. The thing to know about polyunsaturated oils is that they are unstable and extra care needs to be taken with their processing and storage so they don’t become rancid. Great examples are uncooked fish, wild caught sardines and anchovies are great because they are still eating a natural diet, unlike all the farmed salmon which are mostly fed on processed pellet food. Polyunsaturated include the much talked about Omega 3 and 6. In an ideal diet, a good ratio of these fats should be about 1:1, but in our modern day diet the omega 6 are often much higher often as high as 20:1 causing a dangerous imbalance.
Examples of the Omega 3 are flaxseed and uncooked fish oils, along with nuts and seeds. Omega 6 are vegetable and seed oils.
Include all kinds of fat in your diet and moderate amounts of fats will help you eat less overall, as fat is very satiating making us feel full for longer and help balance blood sugar.
It is interesting to note, that our ancestors all ate diets with ten or more times the amount of fat than we do today, yet they were not fat!
Last but not least, fat tastes good, so don’t be afraid to use butter, stop consuming cheap vegetable oils and spreads and replace them with nourishing high quality oils, nuts, seeds and animal products and eat them as nature intended, less processed and not low fat!