Ever since we were told that fat was bad and we started to eat more low-fat, high-sugar, refined and processed food, the world seems to have become fatter and sicker. But now we know that fat isn’t the devil we were all lead to believe after all. In fact every cell in our body needs fat to function. Our brains are made up of 60% fat, we need fat to make hormones and to absorb vitamins. We need it to protect our vital organs and keep us warm, and without it we couldn’t survive. So why are we still so hung up about fat?
Let’s get the facts on fat. There is fat and there is fat: The Good vs The Bad.
The fats we want to be eating plenty of are:
- Nuts and seeds
- Coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil and olives
- Butter and ghee
- Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herrings (think SMASH)
These foods will help keep us fuller for longer, curb our snacking, lower the bad cholesterol (LDL), give us the good cholesterol (HDL) that our bodies actually need to function properly, they will even help us lose weight and give us healthy skin and hair.
What makes a good fat or a bad fat is all in the structure of the molecule, but I’m not going to get all sciency. The fats we want to avoid at all costs are the trans-fats. These are liquid fats at room temperature that have been hydrogenated to make them solid. This may give them a longer shelf life but they are incredibly damaging to our health. These fats will raise the bad (LDL) cholesterol and lower the good (HDL) cholesterol. Saturated fats like butter and coconut oil, that are naturally solid at room temperature, are the fats we want in our diet. It’s the man-made ones like the packs of spreadable vegetable oils pretending to be butter, margarine and the ones hidden in processed, convenience foods that we need to steer clear of.
Also on our good list is Omega 3. The Omegas are essential fatty acids, essential because the body can’t produce them, so we need to get them from food. The fat we definitely shouldn’t be cutting back on are the anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fats, these contain vital EPA and DHA which are crucial for brain health, cardiovascular health and nerve function. A healthy diet should have a good balance of Omega 3 to Omega 6. Too much of the inflammatory Omega 6 is not a good thing, and although we do need some from the good sources such as organic, grass fed meat and poultry, it is way too abundant in the modern western diet due to the overuse of vegetable and nut oils.
To get the balance right we need eat more oily fish, walnuts and flaxseeds, eat some good quality meat and eggs but keep well away from the damaging vegetable oils such as sunflower, soybean, rapeseed and corn oils which seem to be taking over our diets.
For healthy cooking, the safest oils to use are coconut oil or ghee which have a higher smoke point. Extra virgin olive oil can be used for light sautéing but don’t let it get too hot, if it starts to smoke, ditch it and start again. E.V olive oil is great in salad dressings or for drizzling, and full of mediterranean goodness.
So stop with the guilt trip. Fat is a good thing, and your body needs it for optimal health. Just please make sure it’s the good stuff!