Once upon a time we lived in a world where it was ok to eat a homemade scones topped with lashings of butter and cream. Then BAM! the late 70’s came and science told us that fat was BAD. Fast forward 50 years and we have come full circle and landed in the Ketogenic era of fat is GOOD. So what to do? To eat fat or not to eat fat? That is the question……..
Let me start off by saying that fats are vital for or health. They are used to make cell membranes, protect your nerves, absorb vitamins and minerals, fight inflammation, keep your hormones healthy, and are a great source of energy. They are classed into 4 categories: Monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated and trans fats.
Trans fats are the worst. I wouldn’t touch them with a 10 foot pole! They are made by a process called hydrogenation. They basically take a vegetable oil and change the molecules around so it becomes a solid and won’t go rancid. Margarine is an example of this. You will also find them in processed foods like baked goods, deep fried foods, confectionery, microwave popcorn, crackers and more. Trans fats have been linked to an increase in harmful LDL cholesterol and heart disease. They also contribute to inflammation, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome so STAY AWAY!
Saturated fats are neutral. Previously they had been demonised in the low fat era to increase cholesterol levels. New research is questioning this theory now. Saturated fats are found in animal meats, butter, cream, cheese, coconut oil, and cocoa butter to name a few. They are quite popular in the Ketogenic and Paleo diets these days. One of the biggest problems with saturated fats is when you add processed carbohydrates or sugar. This is where the saturated fats in cakes, biscuits, bacon with maple syrup can cause high cholesterol, insulin resistance, diabetes and heart disease. Eating saturated fats WITHOUT sugar is the trick (e.g. butter with steamed vegetables, unsweetened yoghurt, marbled steak with green leafy vegetables). So my recommendation is to consume saturated fats moderately and not with processed carbohydrates.
Monounsaturated fats are the ones commonly found in plants including olive oil, avocados and nuts. They are very popular in the Mediterranean diet and have the ability to reduce heart disease and increase longevity. It is a good idea to eat these ones every day.
Polyunsaturated fats are known commonly as omega-3 and omega-6 oils. Omega-3 is very important for cell membranes, brain health and a great anti-inflammatory. Sources include oily fish, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts. Omega-6 on the other hand are great for the hair and skin growth, PMS, bone health, metabolism, and brain function. They are mainly found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. Just be wary of foods high in vegetable oils because they are usually highly processed and low in nutrients. Best to stick to the fresh sources.
Bottom line: Steer clear of trans fats, eat saturated fats in moderation WITHOUT sugars/carbs and eat mono and polyunsaturated fats as often as you like.