Enjoy Good Fats

I cannot say enough how important it is to not be afraid of fat. It has been demonized to such an extent that many people are now extremely fat phobic as a consequence. This is misguided and when taken to an extreme, can be very detrimental to health. Fats are needed in order for your brain to function properly (your brain is made of 60% fat!), to insulate the body, control inflammation and to maintain skin and hair health. Fat also acts as an excellent energy source during exercise - during the first 15-20 minutes of exercise your body will use carbohydrates as energy, then will switch to using fat. Without enough fats in your diet you’d be a very chilly, grumpy, forgetful individual with hair that is falling out, dull lack-lustre skin and painfully slow recovery after exercise!

They key thing to remember is that not all fats are created equal. Fats to absolutely stay away from are ‘trans fats’. These are a type of unsaturated fat that are produced when vegetable oils undergo a process called hydrogenation. They are used to improve taste and increase shelf life, but are disastrous to health and have been strongly linked with all types of cardiovascular disease, diabetes type 2 and certain cancers. Trans fats can be found in many highly processed foods such as fast food, cakes, biscuits and sweets. If it lists partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated vegetable oil in the ingredients list, stay well away!

Foods very high in saturated fat you want to limit, but not completely avoid as the foods they tend to exist in are an excellent source of nutrients and minerals, especially foods like lamb and beef if you are not vegetarian. Even coconut contains significant amounts of saturated fat, but they are wonderfully nutritious and are high in fibre, iron, vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5, B6.  Examples of food with a high saturated fat content include red meat, butter, cream, cheese and whole milk.

So as you can see, it is not as simple as fat = bad. The right fats, in the right amounts, are a key component of good health, and are also very satiating (filling) so you are more likely to be satisfied more quickly with a meal containing fat. Research has shown that fat in a meal causes a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK) to be released, which signals to the brain that you are full. The less CCK that is released, the less full you will feel and therefore the more you are likely to eat overall. Imagine how you would feel after a salad containing avocado, chopped nuts and dressed with olive oil, compared to drinking a large lemonade. The former is much more likely to leave you satisfied, and this is down to a symphony of hormones and signals that are exchanged between your gut and your brain once the food is consumed.

Now on to the ‘good’ fats that you can enjoy daily:

  • Avocado
  • Fish (especially oil fish e.g. salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring, think SMASH!)
  • Olives
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Cold pressed oils (e.g. extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, hemp oil, walnut oil etc)
  • Coconut oil