Should you eat fat? Yes! Here's why

Park that notion that fat is bad. It is not. In fact, most of us aren’t eating enough of it. Fat can help you lose weight, protect against heart disease, absorb vitamins and boost your immune system. Do you know which fats to eat and which to avoid?

THE SKINNY ON FAT

It’s really important to learn to distinguish between the fat you eat in food and body fat – the fat that serves as cushioning (love or loathe it) around your body. Body fat is nature’s way of storing excess energy in case it needs it. Eating high fat foods will not, in themselves, mean you gain any body fat. This means you can have a pretty high fat diet and not put on any weight.

THE GOOD FATS

MONOUNSATURATED FATS help raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. They may also help you lose weight. They’re found in almonds, avocadoes, cashews, peanuts, olives and olive oil, and sesame seeds.

POLYUNSATURATED FATS also help lower bad cholesterol but many additionally contain omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 fats are important for brain function and immune health. They have also been shown to reduce inflammation, reduce the risk of dementia, improve period pain and menstrual irregularities, and improve symptoms of ADHD. Omega 6 fats can help with skin and eye health.  Omega 3 fats are in oily fish like salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines and herring, flaxseeds, hemp seed and walnuts.  Omega 6 fats include olive oil and groundnut (canola) oil.

GOOD SATURATED FATS Saturated fats are those that are solid or semi solid at room temperature. Without a doubt, the best is coconut oil. It also contains mono- and polyunsaturated fats. However the saturated fat content (the lauric acid) is known to help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and high blood pressure.

OTHER SATURATED FATS like high fat cuts of meat, butter, cream, cheese and lard) are not, in themselves, a predictor of heart disease but they are certainly not as good for you as other kinds of saturated fat like coconut oil. Science shows that reducing saturated fat is only of benefit if you replace that fat with ‘good’ fat (and not just with sugar or refined carbs).

THE BAD GUYS

TRANS FATS These man-made fats are the real nasties so avoid them like the plague. These guys are bad, bad, bad. They’re added to processed foods to improve the texture or to extend shelf life. They’re found in most commercially baked cakes, pastries, muffins, doughnuts and biscuits (sweet or savoury). They’re also in margarine and vegetable shortening, and in most fried foods. Look out for anything listed partially hydrogenated fats, oils or shortening. These are signs of trans fats being in the food.

FOOD FABULOUS’ FAVOURITE FATS

AVOCADOS They go with practically anything and are high in both vitamin E and in healthy monounsaturated fats. Slice it, mash it, love it!

COCONUT OIL There’s so much to like. Apart from helping reduce bad cholesterol and blood pressure, coconut oil is an anti-fungal (caprylic acid) when used both externally or internally. The ideal replacement for butter in baking and as your oil of choice when frying (though we think it works best if you’re cooking something with an Asian influence).

NUTS Packed with nutrients like magnesium and vitamin E, nut bring plenty of essential fats to the table. They make the perfect snack – eat a handful (preferably raw) with a small piece of fruit or spread a little nut butter on an oatcake (peanut butter is just for starters – try almond for a change).

OILY FISH are chock full of omega 3 fatty acids, which are the building blocks of your sex hormones, so are essential for hormone balance. We love them all!

OLIVE OIL Use cold pressed organic oil as a dressing on salads rather than to cook with as the high temperatures reached when roasting or frying can turn the oil rancid.