One of the biggest and more misleading health trends of the last 20 years (created by greedy and manipulative food manufacturers) has been the anti-fat movement. Everything had to be low-fat, preferably fat-free. “You are what you eat,” according to the popular saying, and if you ate fat, you are going to end up fat as well. CRAP!
Truth is, fats are critical to good health, releasing energy slowly to keep the body satiated and regulating blood sugar. They also provide powerful nutrients and antioxidants for cellular repair of joints, organs, skin and hair.
- Fats are critical to good health.
- Cell membranes are made of fat.
- Fats release energy slowly, keeping the body satiated and regulating blood sugar and thus lowering your glycemic response to the other foods you’re eating.
- Fats help you get from meal to meal without feeling as if you’re starving and they give your body some powerful nutrients and antioxidants for cellular repair of the joints, organs, skin, and hair.
- Fats, especially those found in fish oil and flaxseed oil, also help with cognitive ability, mental clarity and memory retention.
Yes there are good and bad fats, but ironically, the very worst kind you’ll ever consume are the ones contained in all the “fat free” processed foods we all seem to believe are actually good for us.
The 2 most common types of fat are saturated (the bad) and unsaturated (the good).
The difference in chemical structure of saturated and unsaturated fat produces significantly different effect on health. Saturated fats raise serum cholesterol levels, clog arteries, and pose a threat to your heart. Unsaturated fats do not raise cholesterol levels, and in fact actually reduce blood cholesterol levels when substituted for saturated fats.
Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are found in foods such as olive oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil and fish oils.
Not all unsaturated fats are healthy though either. Vegetable shortening is also unsaturated, but when used to fry foods, is unhealthy. That’s because it contains trans fats, which raise bad (LDL) cholesterol but do not raise good (HDL) cholesterol. This artery clogging fat is found in processed foods such as cookies, crackers, pies, pastries and margarine. It’s also found in fried foods, especially those at fast-food restaurants, and in smaller quantities in meat and some dairy products.
Essential Fatty Acids are defined as fatty acids that cannot be constructed within the body and must be obtained from the diet. The two classes of Essential Fatty Acids include omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids.
(Things get a little bit technical here but stick with me).
Broken down further, linoleic acid (LA) is an omega-6 fatty acid, and the three primary omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Omega-6 fatty acids can be found in liquid vegetable oils, including soybean oil, corn oil, and safflower oil, as well as seeds and meat. Plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) include soybean oil, canola oil, walnuts and flaxseed. EPA and DHA are the omega-3 fatty acids that are contained in fish and shellfish. Oily fish such as salmon, trout and herring are higher in EPA and DHA than many other varieties.
The best fats come from nuts, oils and seeds.
Few foods have such an undeserved bad rap as nuts. As part of an anti-fat movement, people have avoided nuts since they are high in fat. But nuts and seeds are a good, convenient source of protein, fibre and positive fats, and they stick with you longer, helping control your blood sugar and appetite.
A handful of nuts every day can lower your risk of heart ailments and Alzheimer’s disease. You don’t want to scarf down an entire kilo bag of nuts, but a small serving is a good snack, especially if combined with, say, a cup of green tea.
Nuts also make a nutritious topping for salads and main courses. In a recent rating of nuts, almonds were found to have the most nutritional value, followed by cashews, pecans and macadamias.
The opposite of nuts getting a bad rap is yoghurt having an undeserved good reputation. Not all yoghurt are created equal. Fat-free yoghurt often is loaded with empty calories and heavy in sugar, which will send your blood sugar level soaring. ALWAYS CHECK THE NUTRITION LABEL FOR SUGAR CONTENT.
- Fish oils provide powerful omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which have antioxidant properties and are essential for good cardiovascular health and mental clarity. These are found in salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines and some types of white fish. Swordfish and tuna have fatty acids, though not as much as salmon. Fish is a tremendous source of protein without the high saturated fats found in fatty meat products.
- Everyone should have a bottle of flaxseed oil and fish oil in the refrigerator. The body can convert flaxseed oil into omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, much like fish oil. A table spoon or two a day, one in the morning and one in the evening, is all you need, and it can go into a shake or on top of oatmeal.
- Olive oil is another excellent choice for cooking. It has great antioxidants properties, is good for cooking and goes well with salads.
In a nutshell, unsaturated fats are essential for your health and well being. In fact you are doing your body an unparalleled amount of harm by avoiding them.
The best natural foods to get your healthy fats from are
- Olive oil
- Natural peanut butter
- Coconut butter