If there's one healthy eating message we are all aware of, it's that fat is bad for us.
It seems we're constantly told to trim it off, grill it away and cut it out.
But the true picture is not quite so simple. In fact we all need a certain amount of fat in our diet. Without it we would miss out on vital nutrients - the vitamins A, D and E - and what are known as essential fatty acids which are needed to prevent or control all kinds of ailments and conditions such as heart disease, cancers, immune system deficiencies, arthritis, skin complaints, PMS and menopausal symptoms.
Heavily processed, hydrogenated "trans" fats used in prepared, packaged foods can be extremely damaging to the body. They can compromise the cardiovascular system, immune system, and contribute to behavior problems. They can also lead to weight gain, skin breakouts, high blood pressure, and liver strain.Experts claim the real message we should all be heeding is that we need to be eating the right amount of the right type of fats. But what are the right types of fat? And how much should you be eating?
Which Fat Should We Choose
The three main types of fat are saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. We need all three in our diets, but because some are better for us than others it's important to become aware of the amounts of which fats you are eating. In fact all fats are composed of all three types of these fats in different proportions. To make matters even more complicated, some fats are healthier to cook with than others.
Saturated fats are the type of fats that are naturally solid at room temperature and are found in the greatest quantities in animal products such as dairy, meats and manufactured goods such as cakes, biscuits and pies. Taken in excess, saturated fat has been shown to raise levels of 'bad' cholesterol, one of the main contributors to heart disease, and has also been linked to cancer and obesity. Most of us currently eat too much saturated fat. Researchers believe if we reduce the amounts we eat by a third we would substantially reduce our risk of heart disease.
Most polyunsaturated fats are contained in fats that are liquid at room temperature or cooler. Vegetable oils such as corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and walnut oil are all high in polyunsaturated fats. These fats have the opposite effect of saturated fats as they lower the bad cholesterol in our blood. But, they are not entirely good for us. In fact, research in the last ten years has shown that polyunsaturated fats can increase the amount of free radicals in our bodies - the rogue cells which can increase the risk of cancers and other diseases. This is particularly true when these fats are used in cooking. Despite this, there are some polyunsaturated fats which are absolutely essential in our bodies - called essential fatty acids.
Growing evidence shows that these fats can help to prevent all manner of ailments from heart disease and cancers to immune system deficiencies, arthritis, skin complaints, PMS, menopausal problems and more. One type of essential fatty acids called Omega-3 oils have now been shown by researchers to be particularly important in the diet. These fats - found most commonly in oily fish such as mackerel, herring, salmon, tuna and trout - reduce the blood's tendency to clot thus helping to prevent heart disease and strokes.
Monounsaturated fats are also usually liquid at room temperature, but may harden when cooled. These are most commonly found in olive oil, rapeseed oil and groundnut oil, olives, nuts and avocados. These fats are now thought to be even more effective at lowering cholesterol than polyunsaturated fats and are also thought to be associated with lower levels of obesity, fewer cancers and longer life. Because of all these factors it is generally recommended that we all try to replace some of the saturated fats in our diet with monounsaturated fats and that we try to cook with these fats rather than polyunsaturated fats.
Related to these three main types of fat are trans fats. Trans fats are unsaturated fats which have been hydrogenated (had hydrogen added to them). This process usually happens in food processing, particularly in the production of hard margarines. There is increasing evidence that trans fats are probably the worst of all fats for our health.
Where To Find Healthy Fats
* Avocados, olives, and coconuts are great sources of healthy fat, along with wild salmon and omega -3 rich organic eggs.
* Whole nuts and seeds, and their butters like almond butter or tahini
* Look for the highest-quality organic oils when shopping. Words to look for: organic, first-pressed, cold-pressed, extra-virgin and unrefined. Avoid expeller-pressed, refined, and solvent extracted.
How to Use Healthy Fats
* For cooking at high temperatures (stir frying and baking), try butter, ghee( clarified butter), or coconut oil
* When sautéing foods, try organic extra virgin olive oil.
* Oils like flaxseed, sesame, toasted sesame, walnut, and pumpkin seed are best used up heated in sauces or dressings.
The general message is: we should try to reduce the amount of saturated and trans fats in our diets and replace them with essential fatty acids and monounsaturated fats.
Get Even Healthier
Want help learning how to choose and use nutritious fats and other good-for-you foods? Curious about how health coaching can help you make your own healthy changes? Let's talk! Schedule a consultation with me today- or pass this offer on to someone you care about!
I received my training from the Institute for Integrative Nutritiion, where I learned about more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. Drawing on this knowledge, I will help you create a completely personalized "roadmap to health" that suits your unique body, lifestyle, preferences, and goals.
Much health and happiness,
1. Harding, Charlotte, http:/www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-100371/Why-fat-good--choose-right-type.html