By Irina Schurov
Many doctors and much advertising have promoted low-fat diets and low-fat products. Western society has responded to this by significantly reducing fat consumption, however according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. Clearly, eating less fat is not making us more healthy. Why is this?
1. Bodies cannot make everything they need including some fats
Science has demonstrated that some fats are bad however there are also good fats that are essential for new cell production and our bodies cannot produce some of these fats so we must get them from food. What we really need, especially children, is not a low-fat diet, but a right fat diet.
Fat is an essential macronutrient and has many benefits for our body and our brain. It provides energy and builds healthy cells in our tissues and organs. Fat is a structural component of the brain and vital for the absorption of certain vitamins like A, D, E and K. Furthermore, fat makes hormones essential for healthy skin and creates a protective cushion around our vital organs.
Two essential fatty acids called Omega-3 and Omega-6 cannot be made by our bodies and therefore need to be eaten in the right amounts on a regular basis to avoid poor health.
2. Saturated fat is in many fruits and vegetables
There are different types of fat made up of varying amounts of fatty acids. The type and amount of fatty acids is what matters. There are two main categories of fat to be aware of: saturated and unsaturated. Natural or dietary fats are found in foods derived from plants and animals. At room temperature, they are either solid – saturated fats (such as butter and lard) or liquid – unsaturated fats (such as olive and canola oils). Nearly all the fats we eat are combinations of saturated and unsaturated fats.
Saturated fats are found mainly in animal products — all types of meat, eggs, butter, cheese, whole milk and cream — and in some plant products such as tropical oils – coconut, palm and palm kernel. Eating too much of these fats can reduce arterial elasticity, contribute to atherosclerosis and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, moderate amounts of saturated fats from products like lean meat, chocolate, dairy products can have a positive impact on our health, increasing our good cholesterol (HDL) without increasing our bad cholesterol (LDL).
3. One essential Omega fat is harder to get than the other
Unsaturated fats are primarily found in vegetable oils (e.g. olive oil), nuts, avocados and fish. These fats are healthy because they good for the heart. They help to increase the level of HDL (good cholesterol), decrease the level of LDL (bad cholesterol), make hormones and vitamins and build healthy tissue. Foods like wild salmon, eggs, and soybeans contain Omega-3 fatty acids that contribute to building healthy brain cells, reducing heart disease and cancer, and elevating mood to improve learning and attention. Omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in vegetable oils, some whole-grain products, nuts and seeds, help to reduce cardiovascular disease, ensure cell growth and the normal functioning of the nervous system.
A typical diet normally contains enough Omega-6, however we really need to pay special attention to our Omega-3 intake because many of us don’t get enough.
4. Fat is essential, even saturated fat
Dietary fats cannot and should not be removed from our diet. Healthy diets include saturated and unsaturated fats. It is recommended that 25-35% (60g) of our daily calories (2,000) should come from fat, including 7-10% from saturated fats (20g).
5. Industrial foods contain the worst of all fats
Know your fats and get enough of the good ones
We need certain fats in our diet in order to survive so it is all about getting the right ones in the right amounts. Listen to your body! If you are often hungry and mentally fatigued, if you have dry skin and poor body temperature regulation or if you have developed an irregular menstrual cycle or any other hormonal imbalances, these symptoms might suggest that you don’t have enough fat in your diet.
Some practical tips
To better balance your fat intake, consider doing these things:
- Switch from regular bacon to turkey or chicken bacon.
- Replace margarine with small quantities of butter – butter contains no trans fats.
- Include these heart-healthy choices in your daily diet
- Almonds – 30 g (23 nuts) contains 163 calories, 14g fat (1g saturated)
- Walnuts – 1/4 cup contains 193 calories, 18g fat (1g saturated)
- Avocados – 1/4 avocado contains 57 calories, 5g fat (1g saturated)
- Olive Oil – 1 tablespoon contains 119 calories, 14g fat (2g saturated)
- Olives (green or black) -8 jumbo olives contain 54 calories, 5g fat (1g saturated)
- Sunflower Seeds (unsalted, roasted) -1/4 cup contains 186 calories, 16g fat (2g saturated)
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