Fats form part of our major food groups along with carbohydrates and protein. They often have a bad rep and are very misunderstood.
Cutting fat out of the diet is a common path to take when trying to lose weight and forms the basis of many ‘fad diets’. This can, however, lead to very poor health.
There are different types of fat in our diet and some are essential to our health and well being. Fats can be labelled as saturated / poly and mono unsaturated and trans. (see fats type below)
It is true that a diet high in saturated and especially trans fats is bad for health but too much sugar in the diet is more of a problem when it comes to weight control and systemic tissue health. On this note it is interesting to realise that ‘low fat’ products often have a higher sugar content. Fat is ‘tasty’ and nature made it this way. When we start to remove this from food products (a form of processing) the food becomes less palatable and we need to add something to make it ‘tasty’ again…..sugar!
Saturated fats have also been linked in the past to rise in ‘bad ‘cholesterol LDL. However it also gives a rise to HDL (good cholesterol). Once again sugar and insulin have more of a role to play in high cholesterol and subsequent health problems related to this. Cholesterol is a fat and essential in the body. The body produces cholesterol itself but we also require a degree of dietary cholesterol.
Why do we need fat in our diet?
- Fat is found in cell membranes (phospho-lipids)
- It is required for absorption of vitamins ADEK (assists in blood thinning, eye health, immune system support)
- Cholesterol is required for hormone regulation, cell membrane structure/turgidity, production of Vit D, tissue recovery and myelin sheath cover (nerve conduction).
- It controls blood sugar and stabilises insulin levels
- We get a great source of energy from fatty acids (almost twice more per kg then carb and protein)
- It has strong anti-inflammatory properties (omega 3)
- It satiates! With low fat diets we crave sugar later on in the day. Low fat food often has more sugar in it to keep in palatable…….Poison!
- It insulates the body and protect the organs.
Did you know……………………
- Fats found in naturally occurring foods (animal products and oils) are often a mixture of many fatty acids not just 1 type e.g 54% fat in steak is non saturated, 70% chicken fat unsaturated, 60% in lard unsaturated
- The body needs all fats!! Just as body needs to move in all 3 planes, and obtain a variety of nutrients from a varied source of foods. ( not trans fats however)
- Omega 3 (eases depression, lowers triglyceride levels, reduces inflammation- As little as three grams of fish oil supplements per day is enough to reduce inflammation in many forms, eliminates joint pain, improve skin, promotes weight loss, reduces DOMS, reduces heart disease, stabilises mood, improves focus and brain function)
- Saturated fats are required for assimilation of omega 3 fatty acids
- Trans fats increase the size and number of fat cells ( look for trans fats or ‘hydrogentade veg oil’ on packages). This is not a positive response.
- Trans fats can prevent glucose absorption into cells and liver, therefore increasing blood glucose levels and subsequent insulin levels .
- Eating fat helps you lose fat………fat stored in the body’s peripheral tissues—around the belly, thighs, or butt (also called subcutaneous fat)—can’t be burned efficiently without “newly ingested” fat to help the process (according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dietary fat helps break down existing fat by activating PPAR-alpha and fat-burning pathways through the liver)
- Unsaturated Fatty Acids: Consisting of both monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)
MUFAs are found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, olives, and avocadoes (good anti inflammatory properties and stabilise blood sugar)
PUFAs are found in vegetable oils, fish, and seafood. (Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two PUFAs that can only be obtained through diet and are called “essential fatty acids.”) We need to increase the amount of omega 3 acids in our diet as even in our current diet we have an out of balance ratio of omega 6:3= up to 25:1! (3:1 is optimal) We should increase the amount of dark greens and fish oils to balance out the degree of omega 6 from vegetable oils used in cooking and processed foods and grain fed meat.
Saturated Fatty Acids: Found primarily in foods from animal sources such as meat and dairy products, they are usually solid at room temperature. Some vegetable oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oil also contain saturated fat. We should eat moderate amounts as part of a healthy diet. It is advisable to look for healthier options of meat here such as grass fed beef and free range chicken. Barn and battery raised chickens are actually quite fatty meats due to the speed that they are reared. Organic hormone free meats is also desirable as the toxins from hormones are stored in the fat of the animals and then ingested by us!
Trans Fatty Acids: these are found in most processed and man made foods. Chemically processed vegetable oils, they are semi solid at room temperature and are used in some margarines, fried foods, and processed foods to enhance flavour, texture, and shelf life. Also called “partially hydrogenated” oils, they should be avoided like the plague they are.
The fat summary:-
- Eat fish x3/week
- Fish oil supplement (see Metagenics article)
- Use organic butter
- Fry in coconut oil
- Remove veg oil for cooking and baking, use olive oil cold on salads
- Avoid high grain consumption (includes grain fed meat) as high in omega 6=pro inflammatory
- Eat grass fed red meat (good source omega 3)
- Ensure fat is in every meal and snack. Feel full, have steady energy all day long.
- Stock up on dark leafy greens and nuts
Don’t fear the fat! It is not the enemy.
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