Fat - Friend or Foe?
For a long time, fat has been given a bad rap, considered to cause weight gain and increase the chance of other health risks, such as high cholesterol and heart disease. As such, it has often been recommended by health professionals to significantly reduce the amount of fats consumed, often in favour of carbs. Despite this, we keep gaining weight at an alarming rate and 33 percent of Australians have high cholesterol. So what is going on? Is fat really that bad for you?
Fat is one of the three main macronutrients (the other two being proteins and carbs) and can be broken down into four main types:
Saturated – coming from animal products e.g. dairy products, eggs and meat
Monounsaturated – plant based fats, such as olive, canola, sunflower, safflower and sesame oils, fish, pine nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, macadamias, pecans, pistachios, avocado
Polyunsaturated – some plant based oils, such as soy bean, corn and sunflower oils, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, brazil and pine nuts.
Trans – unsaturated fats which have been chemically altered to improve their physical characteristics. Often used in fried foods, margarine spreads, processed baked goods. Trans fats ‘provide no known benefit to human health’ (Heart Foundation Australia)
Fat is NECESSARY in the body as it is a source of energy, aids in the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, helps to build cell membranes as well as assisting with blood clotting, muscle movement, and reducing inflammation.
Despite popular belief, saturated fats do not increase the risk of heart disease. They should still be included within the diet, along with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. However trans fats should be avoided as they can increase the ‘amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and reduces the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol. Trans fats create inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. They contribute to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes’
So how should you include fats in your diets?
- The only fats that shouldn’t be included in your diet are TRANS fats – saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are all necessary for good health.
- Don’t be scared to include full fat products, such as milk and yoghurt – low fat products often have extra sugar/sweeteners added to improve flavour
- Include good sources of omega 3 fats such as fish, walnuts or flaxseeds
Yours In Health