Is fat making you fat?
Let`s talk about fat. Does eating fat will make you fat? Not necessary, the truth is the obesity crisis is partially linked to our obsession with purchasing foods with ‘low fat’ or ‘0% fat’ claims. The claims may be true however check the labels and you will likely see foods with excessive levels of sugar and simple carbohydrates not fat. Please dont think I am here to sing the virtues of fat as you still need to choose your fats wisely. Not all fats are equal.
Here is a list of different types of fats, some beneficial (yes not all fat is bad for you) and some harmful for your health:
- saturated (processed meat such as sausages, ham, cheese, milk, butter). There is constant controversy surrounding saturated fats in our diet. For years we were made to believe that saturated fats are the cause of the heart disease. However, the more recent research does not support it. If you would like to read about it in more detail here are two great articles: https://www.anhinternational.org/2018/05/02/are-you-a-sat-fat-dinosaur/ https://www.anhinternational.org/2013/10/23/saturated-fat-myth-busted-in-british-medical-journal/. I would advise to avoid all processed meats, not solely because of fat content but the addition of harmful chemical such as sodium nitrite to processed meat products. Nitrites are believed to be cancer causing.
- un-saturated: There are two types: monounsaturated (olives, olive oil, avocados, almonds, pistachios, peanuts ) and polyunsaturated: two main types are omega 3 and omega 6 (they are also called essential fatty acids meaning your body cannot synthesize them so they must be provided via your diet). Most of those fats are beneficial for your health. For example we need them for cognitive function and immune system function. Polyunsaturated fats provide essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins. However, the balance between omega 3 and omega 6 is important. We tend to eat too much omega 6, and excess of omega 6 leads inflammation and many chronic diseases.
- trans fat – one of the most unhealthy foods you can eat (cakes, pastries, takeaways, fried foods). Trans fats increase systemic inflammation and may lead to heart disease. From the health perspective you don’t want to be consuming them at all, but I realise those cakes and take-away meals are tempting! When you are out shopping please read the labels. All products that list hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil/fat as an ingredient most certainly contain trans fats.
The question to ask yourself is: What type of fat am I eating? And how much. Quantity is important. Fat is calorie dense, it contains 9 calories per 1 gram. On the other hand carbs and protein contain 4 calories per 1 gram.
There is no need to go fat free. We do need fat in our diet for the following reasons:
- energy, 30-40% energy requirement from fat
- absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
- curb cravings for junk food
- supply your body with essential nutrients
- building blocks (cell membrane and hormones)
- and it makes food taste good!
Therefore cutting all the fat is NOT beneficial for your health! All of above is very important if you are trying to conceive or are already pregnant.
My dietary tips I follow when it comes to eating fats:
- Choose organic butter over margarine, unless you are vegan then use olive oil or coconut oil. Butter is real food, margarine is chemically manufactured
- use cold pressed unrefined extra virgin olive oil (organic if you can), don’t heat to high temperatures
- eat tree nuts and seeds (peanuts don’t count!). Peanut is actually not a nut, it belongs to legume family
- eat avocados (No, you should not have 4 avocados a day, even though they are classed as a good fat, you still need to be sensible about quantities, same applies to nuts)
- cook with heat stable fat such as coconut oil, avocado oil. Remember to never overcook oil so its smoking, as then it turn fat into trans fat
- eat oily fish – 2 portions a week (sardines, salmon, mackerel, trout)
- avoid fat free/low fat products as they often contain much more sugar that their full fat versions (read the labels)
Take home note: Fat is essential for our health, however when we follow a Western diet rich is procesed foods we often consume the wrong forms.