Why “Fat” really isn’t your enemy!
Of all the Fad Diets that have come & gone, the Low/No-Fat one is definitely the longest lasting. And from a certain point of view, this is a good thing, as diets high in fats from fried foods and fatty animal products are known to cause obesity, clog arteries, and generally decrease health. However, the majority of people who follow this trend simply avoid all types of fats, and what they don’t understand is that Fat in itself isn’t the culprit, rather the type of fat! Some fats are actually critical for many processes in the body, in fact without them our bodies would not be able to function properly. The key is understanding what the different types are and how they should be incorporated into a healthy diet.
The functions of healthy fat:
Brain health - omega-3 fats are what make up the myelin sheaths of nervous cells in the brain
Hormone and Prostaglandin production & balance - these essential molecules are made up directly of fats!
Protect and Hold our Organs, particularly the Heart, Kidney and Intestines
Make up the membranes of all our body’s cells, including the skin, thus promoting anti-aging and a youthful appearance
Keep the artery and vessel walls strong thus maintaining smooth blood flow
Improve nutrient absorption and digestion, particularly Vitamins A, D, E, and K which are fat soluble
Weight loss - by ingesting moderate amounts of healthy fats that the body actually needs and uses, we feel fuller and are less hungry!
The Good Fats: Unsaturated fats- lower LDL Cholesterol and decrease inflammation
Monounsaturated fats (liquid at room temperature, solidify in the fridge): Olive oil, Macadamia nuts, Almonds, Avocado
Polyunsaturated fats (liquid at room temperature and in the fridge): Flax oil, Safflower oil, Fatty fish (salmon, herring, trout), Walnuts, Flaxseeds, Sunflower Seeds
Essential Fatty Acids (polyunsaturated fats we need but that the body can’t make): Omega-3 (Fatty fish, Flax, Walnuts, Omega-3 eggs) and Omega-6 (Soy, Safflower oil; Sunflower, Pumpkin and Sesame seeds; Nuts; Borage oil)
The Bad Fats- unhealthy and therefore should be eliminated from the diet
Saturated fats (solid at room temperature - increase LDL Cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and inflammation): include Red Meat, Poultry, Butter, Cheese
Trans-fats (increase LDL Cholesterol, lower HDL Cholesterol, possibly Increase the risk of certain cancers, promote infertility): include Deep Fried, Packaged and Processed foods
The Problem with Low and No-Fat Foods
While it is a good idea to choose lower fat varieties of dairy and meats in general in the diet, “low/no fat” often means that the food has other ingredients added. Fat adds flavour to foods, and if it’s not there, manufacturers usually have to add sugar and other fillers to enhance their taste.
Additionally, fat free also means there are none of the previously mentioned benefits (energy, satisfaction, etc…)
Healthier alternatives: When snacking, instead of reaching for “low-fat” cookies and pastries, opt instead for:
Savory: Avocado with tomatoes or Guacamole on flax crackers
Savory: Almond or Cashew butter on celery or rice cakes
Sweet: A handful of nuts and seeds with fresh or dried fruit
Sweet: Dark chocolate (minimum 70%)
General Recommendations: While healthy fats are good for us, necessary in fact, the key is always moderation. Choose healthy (unsaturated, mono or polyunsaturated fats) over unhealthy (saturated or trans fats) as often as possible. Talk to your Naturopath if you’re at all confused or have questions about how fat may play a role in your own health.
Dr Katarine Holewa, ND