Recently I watched a program called Embarrassing Bodies. It was a special episode of the show that focused on obesity and the guests presented with various debilitating conditions and a desire to lose weight. Guests met with a doctor who asked them questions about their diet and weight loss history. They had all tried various fad diets, shakes, weight loss pills and a few had had gastric banding. A common thread for these people was their addiction and cravings for sugary, carbo-loaded foods. The doctor pointed out to them that not only were their diets full of these things, they were also high in fat. The doctor’s focus was very much fat, fat, fat! Not the people but the fat they were eating. What really bothered me was that there was no real explanation or clarification by the doctor about what kind of fat he disliked and why.
What I have become aware of from discussions with friends and family is that whenever we talk about fat (in food) we instantly think “BAD for us”. Some of us believe that if we eat fat we will get fat so we avoid it (most of the time) or we choose low fat products that in the long run end up being worse for us as they are packed full of sugar. In the late 90’s a low fat diet was sold as the best way to lose weight and reduce our risk of heart disease. Studies now show that this way of eating has had little success over the years and that diets high in fats are turning out to be much more effective.
It is really important that we understand that some fats are actually very good for us and essential to our health and well being, while others are making us fat and sick. The hardest part is understanding which fats are the good guys, which one is so-so and which one is the bad guy.
Well, that is what I want to talk about today. Also how we can add them into our lives and how much to eat of them.
THE GOOD GUYS
The good fats are our monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. What on earth are they I hear you say! Let me tell you.
Monounsaturated fats are avocados, olives and olive oils, sunflower oil, seeds and most nuts. Research shows that these fats help lower bad cholesterol, lower our risk of heart disease, help us lose weight, reduce our risk of cancer and are beneficial for those with arthritis. These fats we should try to eat everyday. Drizzle olive oil on a salad, eat almonds, cashews or olives as a snack or cook with sunflower oil. Job done!
Polyunsaturated fats are found in things like salmon, sardines, anchovies, walnuts, tofu, flax seed and flax seed oil. They are considered heart healthy and help us with blood clotting, feeding our cells, nourishing our nerves and managing inflammation in our bodies. They are known as essential fats and our bodies need them in order to function normally. Our amazing body can’t produce these types of fats so we must eat them.
Omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fat and is probably one you already know about. They are great for our brains and mental health. Research is showing that they can prevent and reduce symptoms of depression, sharpen our memory, protect us against dementia, balance our mood and also support a healthy pregnancy. We should try to eat these and other polyunsaturated fats often. Have some walnuts on your cereal or in yoghurt for dessert, drizzle flax seed on your cereal or on a salad, throw some flax seeds in a smoothie or have a lovely piece of salmon for dinner! Sorted!
While fish is the best source of Omega 3, a really easy way to get your daily dose is to take a supplement. A good quality Fish Oil is best. You want to go for about 1000mg a day.
Saturated fat. I am sure you have heard of this guy. Saturated fat has had a lot of bad press in recent years as it has been thought to be the leading cause of heart disease and high cholesterol. Studies are now showing that it has no or little link to heart disease and that there are other more important dietary factors.
Saturated fat is found in beef, poultry, pork, coconut oil, dairy products like cheese, butter and whole milk. It is also found in processed packaged foods. With the mixed opinions about this fat it is generally a good idea to limit our intake of it. Coconut oil is thought to be one exception as research is showing that it may play a role in improving brain and immune function. You can use coconut oil to cook with in place of olive oil as it has a higher smoking point, put a couple of teaspoons in a smoothie or use it in recipes in place of butter. Also try to limit eating cheese and red meat to a few times a week.
THE BAD GUY
Trans fat. This is margarine!!! If you use margarine I want you to walk to your fridge right now, pick it up, chuck it in the bin and then promise me you will never buy it again! Good. You just made one of the healthiest decisions of your life. Trans fat is also found in processed foods like lollies, chips, soft drink and pastries and this is the fat that makes us sick and causes us to gain weight. It creates inflammation in our bodies and is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes and raises our bad cholesterol. When you are looking at a food label in the supermarket look at the list of ingredients and if you see ‘partially-hydrogenated oil’ put the product back on the shelf and keep walking smile emoticon. We want to avoid consuming any trans fat in our diets. So what to use instead of margarine? Use butter in small amounts.
Trans fat = BAD GUY. Steer clear of it.
Saturated fat = NOT SO BAD but keep an eye on how much you eat.
The Unsaturated fats (Poly & Mono) = GOOD GUYS. Eat these daily and consider taking an Omega 3 supplement.
Does any of the above ring true for you? Have you ever been afraid of eating fat? Has fat been a confusing topic for you? What will you start doing differently? What new ways of eating fat will you try? How do you already get good fats in to your meals?