A Guide to Healthy Fats

For years, nutritionists and doctors have preached that a low-fat diet is the key to losing weight and preventing health problems. However, not all fat is the same. Fat is essential to human life, we all need fat in our diets.

Our body requires small amounts of ‘good fat’ to function and help prevent disease. However, most of the ‘modern’ food contains a lot more fat than the body needs. Too much fat, especially too much of the wrong type of fat could be detrimental to our health causing serious health problems such as higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels, obesity, which in turn lead to a greater risk of heart disease. So, it is significant to know what types of fat should we be cutting back on.

Bad vs Healthy Fats

We are constantly being told that “Fats are bad”, and many will spend lots of time and money to completely rid their diet of fat. The truth is, we need fats. Fats help in nerve transmission, nutrient absorption, maintaining cell membrane integrity etc. Simply said, fat is actually necessary for you to lose weight. However, when consumed in excess amount, it can increase your risk for a number of health threats. The key is to replace bad fats with healthy fats in our diet.

Healthy fats, also called unsaturated fat come in two forms: mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats.

1. Mono-unsaturated fats

A type of fat found in a variety of food and oils such as: nuts including almonds, peanuts, cashew, macadamia, walnuts and pistachios; avocado; canola; olive oil.

The most well-documented benefit of consuming mono-unsaturated fats is the potential for keeping your heart healthy. It improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. Re- search also shows that these fatty acids may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type-2 diabetes. 

2. Poly-unsaturated fats 

There are two types of polyunsaturated fat: omega-3 and omega-6. These are also known as essential fatty acids. Our body can’t produce essential fatty acids on it’s own, so we need to get them from food.

While Omega-3 can be found in legumes, soy food, tuna, salmon and mackerel, green leafy vegetables, walnuts, other nuts and flaxseed, you can get your Omega-6 from vegetable oils like sunflower, evening primrose oil, peanut, canola or cereals.

Now that you know what fats you should include into your diet, let’s talk about those fats you should avoid. There are two main types of potentially harmful dietary fat: Saturated Fat and Trans Fat.

Saturated Fats are those fats you find in animal products such as meat fat, full-fat dairy products such as butter and cream and palm and coconut oil in processed food such as biscuits or chips.

Saturated fat has no known health benefits. A high intake of disadvantageous saturated and trans fats can lead to elevated low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol levels, which may increase your risk of developing heart disease. These fats may also contribute to obesity, diabetes and cancer.

Trans fats are used in commercially made cakes and biscuits, takeaway food, energy bars, ready-made meals and snack food. Trans fats can increase harmful low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol, while decreasing good high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol. In turn, this can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, it has been associated with the development of type-2 diabetes.

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