In recent years, fats and oils have received a lot of bad press. Indeed the assumption they can lead to weight gain and increased cholesterol has been widely propounded. And yet, it’s not as simple at that. Indeed, some fats and oils do form an essential part of our diet, but there are some we should avoid and others that we need. Good fats (LDL fats) are not only important for the health of our skin, heart, joints, brain and hormones, but also provide us with energy and insulation. They also help our body absorb fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A, E, K and D. Better still, they help slow down digestion when eaten with protein, which stabilises blood sugar and makes us feel fuller for longer. So, contrary to public opinion, they are actually fundamental to our health and can aid with weight loss!
As the name would suggest, Essential Fatty Acids (omega 3 and 6) are ‘essential’ to our body as we cannot produce them. Omega 3 is the one we need to especially focus on, as we naturally consume enough omega 6 from our daily diet. Omega 3 can be found in oily fish, seeds and nuts such as walnuts and linseeds.
Low fat or fat free options of foods are often full of sugar instead to enhance the flavour in the absence of the fat.
Fats that we should eat in our diet:
- Coconut oil: ideal for cooking at high temperatures as it remains stable under heat and it’s chemical make up doesn’t alter. It is also easily absorbed by the body and gives a steady supply of energy, as well as being antiviral and antifungal.
- Olive oil and extra virgin olive oil: best used for dressings or cooking under a moderate heat as they can become denatured when heated, which can lead to health problems
- Flaxseed oil: high in omega 3, excellent for salad dressings; keep cold and eat it cold!
- Butter : (as long as 100% butter, not mixed with anything) contains vitamins A and E; like coconut oil, it’s easily absorbed by the body and stable when heated
- Nut butters: contains protein, fibre, and healthy fats
- Avocados: rich source of LDL ‘good’ fats; can be used to help regulate blood sugar levels and as an anti-inflammatory food
- Nuts and seeds: these are an excellent source of healthy fats when eaten in moderation
- Fresh oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, anchovies: these are a great source of omega 3, which helps reduce inflammation in the body and regulates insulin production
- Organic free range eggs: rich source of omega 3
- Organic free range meat
Fats to avoid (HDL or ‘bad’ fats) :
- Vegetable oils, such as sunflower oil: these can easily go rancid and oxidise when heated. They also high in omega 6, which can exacerbate inflammation in the body and lead to various health issues.
- Trans fats: this can be found in biscuits, ready meals, baked goods (crisps, crackers), and ice cream. These are all saturated fats, which our body makes enough of already, so we don’t need to consume anymore. Trans fats can also lead to thickening of the arteries, which can lead to heart disease and inflammation amongst other health problems.
- Margarine: also a trans fat or hydrogenated fat, since it has been modified to turn it into a solid from an oil. This process destablises the fat, which can harm the body.