Yes – healthy fats do exist! For so long we have been conditioned to stay away from fats for weight loss,. Many years ago, low fat diets were all the rage. Science suggests that a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrate can actually cause weight gain and we know now that fat is a vital part of healthy eating patterns and that in fact, foods that contain fats provide us with essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.
Fat is one of the three nutrients that your body needs in larger quantities. Fat, therefore is one of the three Macronutrients. (Fat, Protein, Carbohydrates)
Types of fat:
*Saturated Fats - Saturated fats are usually animal in origin for example, the skin in poultry and fat on your meat. However some notable exceptions to this rule include plant based fats like coconut oil and palm oil.
Examples of food high in Saturated Fats - coconut oil, full-fat dairy products, butter and red meat.
*Trans Fats - These fats are unsaturated fats that have been modified through various processing methods. Trans Fats are considered to be pro-inflammatory and there is a world-wide drive to eliminate them from processed foods due to the ill effects they have on our health. Trans Fat is considered the worst type of fat to eat. Unlike other dietary fats, trans fats, also called trans-fatty acids, raise "bad" cholesterol and also lowers "good" cholesterol.
Examples of food that contain Trans Fat - margarines, vegetable oils, cakes, doughnuts, pastries, Ice-cream, bread and fast food.
*Monounsaturated fats - These fats occur mainly in our plant sources. Positive health effects occur when we replace saturated fats in our diet with Monounsaturated fats. You can expect a lower total cholesterol, lower LDL and lower triglycerides.
Examples of food high in Monounsaturated fats - olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, avocados, nuts and seeds and peanut butter.
*Polyunsaturated Fats - These fats occur mainly in our oily fish and certain nuts and seed. It appears as if their health benefit lies with heart health and it you replace some of the saturated fat in your diet with PUFA's you can reduce your heart disease risk over time. PUFA"S are also a source of our 2 essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6). Our body cannot make these fats so we need to consume them in our diet.
Examples of food high in Polyunsaturated fats - sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, flaxseed oil, walnuts and fish like salmon, herring, trout, mackerel and sardines.
*Fat is a great source of energy. The energy density of fat is more than double that of carbohydrates of protein. One gram of fat will give approximately 9kCal of energy. This makes fat energy dense and a great choice to pack a big punch in a relatively small amount!
*Fat assist with the transportation of fat soluble vitamins. Remember fat and water do not mix, this is the reason fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) need some dietary fat in order to be transported to where it can be used.
*The fat in your body is also important as it insulates and cushions your organs.
*Just like protein, fat keeps us feeling fuller for longer.
*As much as 60% of your brain is made out of fat.
*The myelin sheath that protects nerve endings is also primarily fat.
So how do we know which fats are bad and which are good? Here’s the key:
Reach for more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats instead of trans fats and saturated fats.
These healthy fats are linked to strong immunity, improved cardiovascular functioning, reduced inflammation, and improved brain functioning. Fat is a very important nutrient in a healthy diet. It has multiple functions in your body and each type of fat has a unique fatty acid profile with specific health benefits/detriments.
The type of fat in our diet seems more important than the quantity, but as we always say, everything in moderation.
*Replace animal fats (saturated) with plant fats (unsaturated) and where possible, avoid man made fats (trans).
*Stick to small amounts of saturated fats like - Red meat, beef, pork, lamb, veal, poultry skin. Whole milk, High-fat cheese, butter, Ice cream, Tropical oils like palm and coconut.
*Get good fats on your grocery list - Avocados, Coconut, Nuts — including nut butters and oils, Seeds — including seed butters and oils, Poultry and Fish.
*Get cooking with monounsaturated fats - Olive oil, Canola oil, Peanut oil and Sesame oil.
*Stock up on plenty of polyunsaturated fats - Soybean oil, Sunflower oil, Walnut oil and Olive oil.
Remember that no food is all bad or all good for any one person, but moderation and your relationship with the food you consume is most important.