The Cornerstone of a Balanced Diet
For years, fats have been given an unfairly negative label and been demonised by weight loss ‘gurus’. Whilst it is true that trans fats provide no health benefits and will actually cause serious health problems if over-consumed, the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat groups are a completely different story. Amongst many things, the body relies on fats for energy, absorption of vitamins and building cell membranes. Eating a low-fat diet or cutting out fat altogether is in fact highly counterproductive and harmful to your body, despite what you may have been told. Healthy fats should be welcomed into our diets and given a far better rep: they can improve mood and weight management, raise your energy levels and fight inflammation. Through appreciating the benefits of good fats, it is far easier to achieve a diet which is fulfilling and helps you reach your best self.
Which fats to avoid?
Trans fats should definitely be avoided and not be associated with the beneficial fat groups. They are likely to be found in fast foods and processed junk such as fries, cookies, pastries and practically anything containing hydrogenated vegetable oil or fried food. No amount of trans fats are considered safe to consume, so immediate elimination of those artificial foods is very important. Trans fats not only reduce the good HDL cholesterol, but raise the bad LDL cholesterol and promotes a host of health problems such as inflammation, insulin resistance and heart disease. As you can see, trans fat has no place in a healthy diet and should be avoided whenever possible.
What about saturated fat?
Saturated fat is a more complicated one, because whilst it provides some nutritional advantages, overconsumption can lead to an increase in bad LDL cholesterol and increase the risk for arterial blockages. The answer is to consume saturated fats – such as red meat, whole-fat dairy products, butter and coconut oil – with moderation in mind. They are not harmful when consumed with limitations, so just keep an eye on how many steaks per week you are consuming.
The good fats:
- Monounsaturated fats:
This is the type of fat found in nuts, olive oils, avocados and high oleic sunflower oils, all of which are enjoyed in a Mediterranean diet. They should be enjoyed freely and will help your body fight inflammation, chronic disease (heart disease for example) and cognitive decline. To up your intake of these function-enhancing fats, cook with olive oil, snack on nuts instead of crisps and try avocados on toast or in salads.
- Polyunsaturated fats:
These fats are essential to living. Our body cannot manufacture them on its own, so we are responsible for their intake through food. If you are wondering just how essential they are, the answer is VERY: they are needed for blood clotting, building nerve coverings, controlling inflammation and muscle activity.
The two types of polyunsaturated fats are omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. You might have heard of them given that eating a diet rich in omegas is rather on trend nowadays. Omega 3s are what you should really focus on, so incorporate salmon, eggs, sardines, kale, mackerel and flaxseeds into your daily meals. If you find it difficult to consume enough omegas, then perhaps consider a supplement to help you along the way. Diet is the most effective way, but there is a limit to how much spinach and chia seeds one may want to eat!
Eating these omegas are completely worth it, as they have been proven to prevent memory loss, fight depression, reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, and ease arthritis or joint pain. Stock up your cupboard with the staples of a Mediterranean diet and get eating!
So, by following a few simple rules on fats and adjusting your diet accordingly you can actively help towards achieving a much healthier you.