Fats are bad right? That’s what many people have been led to believe over the last few years from various reports in the press. “All fats cause cardiovascular disease and diabetes!”
This belief is strengthened by the increasing number of marketing ploys promoting food distributors new, low fat products as the answer to ensuring you maintain a healthy diet and a healthy weight too.
Eliminate fat content, “as much as you can!” This statement has a fundamental flaw in it. Whilst some fats are bad for you and should be minimised within your diet, some fats are actually good for you and play a vital role in maintaining a healthy, fully functional body.
Good fats consist of mainly monounsaturated fats such as rapeseed oil, avocados and nuts; and polyunsaturated fats such as Omega 3 fatty acids (oily fish, walnuts and pasture reared eggs) and Omega 6 fatty acids (sunflower seeds, sunflower oil but only cold pressed, sesame seeds).
Further to this, there is a need for some saturated fats to be included in the diet as they “enhance the immune system” (Cohen, 1986) and “provide energy and structural integrity to the cells” (Mead et al, 1986). Animal sources of saturated fat include pork, chicken, cheese, butter and eggs.
Non-animal sources include palm oil and coconut oil. Moderation here though is key as too much saturated fat can lead to a rise in cholesterol which can increase the risk of Chronic Heart Disease (CHD). Below 30g for men and 20g for women is recommended to avoid health risks (www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/Fats).
Trans Fats are the evil fats you want to avoid. These fats are the resulting product from a process called hydrogenation where amounts of vegetable oils are developed into more solid fats like margarine from their original unsaturated form. Hydrogen is pumped into the unsaturated oils during this process with the consistency of the final product directly relating to the level of hydrogenation used.
Therefore next time you are reaching for low fat processed foods, think twice. These types of meals may contain low saturated fats but these will more than likely have been replaced by high levels of trans fats. Trans Fats have been directly linked to cancer, diabetes, obesity, immune system dysfunction and other serious diseases. They have an adverse effect on blood lipid levels which increases the Low Density Lipoproteins (bad cholesterol) within the body and decreases High Density Lipoproteins (good cholesterol). So my advice would be to try and avoid as much as possible things such as pre-prepared foods, pastries, pies, take away foods, cakes, biscuits and processed microwaveable meals.
Finally, please try and avoid margarine. Use butter instead in moderation as this is in its unrefined original form and has not been subject to the manufacturing delights of hydrogenation explained earlier. Eat a variety of unsaturated and saturated fats (in moderation) but remember to buy organic where possible and use locally sourced ingredients in each meal.
Good fats in moderation are essential to the body so make sure they feature in your daily diet, enjoy!