Fats get a lot of bad press, but the truth is not all fat is bad. In fact we need good fats in our diet to help us function, help protect and support our organs, and provide us with energy (proteins and carbohydrates provide 4kcal per gram whilst fat provides 9kcal per gram).
All fats, no matter what form they take, provide the same amount of energy to the body but the type of fat is what makes the difference to the health of our body.
With the lack of time and the increasing demands on our lifestyles to grab food on the go, we tend to choose foods that contain the wrong kind of fat (ready meals, crisps, sweets etc.), as oppose to the good and beneficial fats (seeds, nuts, oily fish etc.).
Therefore wouldn’t it beneficial to understand these different fats and their health benefits/risks, so we can make more educated decisions when we make our food choices? Fats are broken down in to 2 types: Saturated and Unsaturated. The information below breaks these down further so you can really understand the difference between the 2, helping you to create a more balanced diet and eliminating the many health implications the bad fats can bring.
Trans Fat – The real nasties! These are found in manufactured foods and tend to be used to make ready meals and convenience foods cheaper and supposedly, more tasty. Perhaps that should be more addictive than tasty! These fats are produced by a process known as hydrogenation, which basically makes polyunsaturated fat change its ‘form’. This change in form creates a ‘harder’ fat that in affect ‘sticks’ to our arteries easier, clogging them in the process. Not a nice thought! These fats also increase our chances of heart disease, raise cholesterol and increase our chances of developing some cancers. So all in all these fats do not provide any purpose to our body other than to be burnt off as calories!
Saturated Fatty Acids – These fats can be found in plant products but are predominately found in animal fats (dairy, eggs, meat). This fat, when consumed in high quantities in our diet, is one of the bad fats as it contributes to us developing diseases such as heart disease, stroke and high blood cholesterol. A way to avoid high quantities of Saturated Fatty Acids is to choose lean meats, remove the skin before cooking and choose low fat dairy options such as skimmed milk and low fat yoghurts.
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids – Whilst these aren’t the healthiest type of fat they are still better than saturated fats and can be good for health when consumed in moderation. They can help reduce heart disease and lower cholesterol.
Omega 3 & Omega 6 Fatty Acids (polyunstaruarted fats with a double bond) – these fats cannot be produced by the body and therefore must be consumed in the food we eat. These essential fats help to support exercise and aid recovery as well as help brain development, enable strong immune systems and aid in regulating blood pressure.
It’s generally found that we are lower in omega 3 so it’s particularly important to add this where possible to our diet. The main source of Omega 3 is oily fish such as Salmon or tuna (fresh), so its good to try and eat 1-2 portions a week, flaxseed and hemp oil as well as brazil nuts and green leafy vegetables i.e Kale, broccoli etc.
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids – These are considered the healthiest fats of all. Typically they also contain higher levels of vitamin E, which is an antioxidant vitamin and very beneficial to the body. They can be found in foods such as olive oil, avocados, peanut butter, nuts and seeds. This fat is the healthier option as it can help to lower cholesterol, lower the risk of heart disease and cancers.
Hopefully you’ve found this blog helpful and will be looking at your food labels in a little more detail to ensure you reap the rewards of the good stuff from now on!
Be.fit tip: Remember with any fat…moderation is key!