There is so much flying about on the internet about what fats you should and shouldn’t eat, what is said to kill you one day is good for you the next?
I don’t like to label fats “healthy” or “unhealthy” because they all have their role in the body (apart from trans fats- these are another story).
Let's get to the point;
Four different types of fats:
Polyunsaturated fat can help reduce (LDL- “bad”) cholesterol level in your blood, which in turn can help to reduce the risk of you developing heart disease and stroke. Polyunsaturated fats can provide you with omega 3 fatty acids (essential for a healthy heart) and Vitamin E (important for healthy vision)- both vital for the body’s systems.
Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and can be found in sesame and sunflower seeds and oils, oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, trout), flax seeds and oils and walnuts. These fats should be eaten the most but again potion sizes should be considered.
Monounsaturated fats also have a positive effect on your (LDL- “bad") cholesterol level in your blood. These fats are liquid at room temperature and like polyunsaturated fats, they can help develop and maintain your cells as well as containing vitamin E important for the immune system and healthy vision.
You will find monounsaturated fats in olives, nuts including peanuts and nut oil, avocado, canola oil and seeds. Again this one is a fat to eat more often than saturated fats but be aware of portion sizes.
Saturated fat is solid at room temperature, and is mainly found in meat products, the skin of poultry, dairy products, many processed foods, such as cakes, biscuits, pastries, and chips, as well as coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter.
A large intake of saturated fats over time may raise (LDL) cholesterol levels, however, recent studies have found no link between consuming higher levels of saturated fat and cardiovascular disease and our body does need small amounts of saturated fats for healthy brain and lung function, liver support and to support our immune system. It should not be eliminated from the diet completely, a balanced diet of saturated fats in moderation is key with this one, however, I would recommend consuming saturated fat in an unprocessed food such as coconut oil, butter, cheese, yoghurt and meat instead of crisps, cake and chocolate bars.
Trans fats are created from oils that have undergone a food processing method (partial hydrogenation) that makes them easier to cook with and less likely to spoil than naturally occurring oils. Research has shown a direct connection to trans fats and increased LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels as well as other health risks.
Trans fats tend to be solid at room temperature. You will find trans fats in are margarine, snack foods, fast foods and ready-prepared foods. Trans fats may occur naturally in some food, like beef, lamb and dairy products, but only in very, very small amounts.
Check the nutritional label for “trans fats” in the nutritional information or look for partially hydrogenated oil - it is best to avoid these as much as possible. Fully hydrogenated oils do not contain trans fats.
The low fat or fat-free foods are often tasteless therefore large amounts of refined carbohydrates, salt, chemicals, preservatives and sugar are added to these to give them better taste and consistency. Studies have shown adding these ingredients will worsen your health more than eating a slightly higher amount of saturated fat.
Next time you go to grab what you may consider a “guilt-free”, fat-free treat, give the label a read to see what they have added instead.
Go for the poly and monounsaturated fats more often than saturated fats, you should be getting about 20-30% of your daily food intake from fats.
Nuts, or nut butter and an apple is one of my favourite snacks or half an avocado with some hummus is a great one too. Use olive oil on salad and aim to eat oily fish 2-3 times a week. As always with any food be aware of the portion sizes as you can easily overindulge with foods like nuts and nut butter.
You are probably now wondering what oil you should be using for cooking? Oils react differently at different temperatures, some fatty acids (in oils) can turn toxic when heated at high temperatures e.g frying. I will be doing another blog post soon on oils you should be cooking with, so keep your eye out.
As always any questions drop a comment or shoot me a message in the contact section of my website.
BSc Sports Science, Women’s Fitness Specialist and Personal Trainer