Yes that sounds a bit strange right? Except its perfectly true – you need good fats in your diet to keep your cells healthy and all the different systems in your body working optimally.
This is a message you would not have heard much in the past few decades but more recently people have been evaluating their attitudes to nutritional fats.
In the past eating a diet high in fats was considered unhealthy, so the “experts” decided people should stop eating fat – instead eat low fat foods – and this took off like a craze – people could buy low fat everything!
But of course this led to another problem – because fat adds flavour to our foods, without it food became bland. So the genius food manufacturers added sugar – lots and lots of sugar!
And of course fast forward another 20 years and everyone is getting fat or obese, and heart disease and cancer rates are rising. What’s the cause? You guessed it… Sugar!!
So fat is no longer the baddie, sugar is. But I’m afraid things are never that simple 🙂
I want to outline some basics in relation to fat so that you can begin to add healthy fats into your diet (that you are most likely deficiency in), and you can remove or cut down on the unhealthy fats that could be in your diet.
So first off lets see what good fats do for us. Briefly they:
- Help manufacture hormones.
- They help build and repair nerve cells and cell membranes.
- They are used to make steroids in our body.
- They provide energy to fuel our cells.
- They help us absorb fat soluble vitamins.
- They provide insulation from cold and shock to our organs and our body.
So the right fats are pretty important.
We actually only need 2 kinds of fats. These are known as the essential fats and they are Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Other fats include the saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and other polyunsaturated fats. These fats come in various different lengths that have all kinds of different properties like melting and boiling points, digestibility and healthy / unhealthy effects on us.
Traditionally our western diets have been overly high in saturated fats and Omega 6 fatty acids and seriously low in the other essential fat Omega 3. They have also been low on other mono and polyunsaturated fats that (as the people of the Mediterranean have proven) can be largely beneficial for our overall health when eaten in balanced amounts.
So the key for those of us who wish to improve or maintain our health need to make sure we are getting enough Omega 3 fats, a good supply of mono and poly unsaturated fats, and not a lot of saturated fat.
This can be easily done in 3 ways:
- Add sources of omega 3 oils into your diet. These include Flax and Hemp seeds and their oils, Walnuts, Salmon and Sardines, Leafy Greens and Cabbage. You can easily add these to your diet. Add the plant based foods to salads, stir fry’s and whatever else takes your fancy. Just be sure not to heat the oils as they can be damaged over 100 degrees C (212 F).
- Add mono and poly unsaturated fats. These will provide extra energy to fuel you and control your appetite. Good sources are Olives and Olive oil, Nuts like Almonds and Cashews, Seeds like Pumpkin and Sunflower seeds, and Avocados. Again these can be easily incorporated into things like breakfast (seeds and nuts), salads (olives, olive oil, avocados) and simple snacks (a great hunger buster is sliced avocado sprinkled in sea salt and olive oil).
- Reduce your consumption of saturated fats. These are usually found in animal foods like dairy, eggs and meat. Although these foods can be health providing when eaten in moderation, many people eat far too much of these kinds of foods. The excess saturated fats causes many health issues such as promoting inflammation, increasing risk of cancer and heart disease, clogging our lymphatic and digestive system. The best way to reduce our intake and dependence on these kinds of foods is to push them out of our diet by eating more fruits and vegetables combined with the other more healthy fats outlined above. NB If you try to cut out the BAD foods without first replacing them with healthier versions you will stress yourself out, not know what to eat and end up back eating the wrong foods after trying to starve yourself – so don’t do it!.
There is also a secondary benefit from following the above steps. By moving away from an animal food based diet to a more plant / whole foods diet you improve the overall nutritional profile of your food. There are more minerals and vitamins available in this kind of diet, as wells as immune enhancing plant substances which are simply not found in animal foods. You will also increase your fibre intake which will improve your digestion. These are just some of the benefits on making these simple dietary changes.
I hope you find this info helpful. Leave a comment if you have any questions or need more info on any of the foods mentioned above: where to find them, how to add them to meals etc.