Know Your Fats
Why eating fat is good for you
Despite decades of mainstream advice to avoid high fat foods, there is overwhelming evidence that shows that fats and oils are an essential part of a healthy diet(1)(2). Fat is a major source of energy for your cells, and it also helps to make the nutrients from your meals more bioavailable(3)(4). Fat is needed to allow you to absorb certain vitamins (A, D, E and K), minerals (including calcium), and antioxidants such as lycopene and beta-carotene(5).
The great thing about including quality fats in your diet is that you feel full for longer - for many people this means you actually eat less. As covered in our blog about the low carb high fat (LCHF) diet, fat is not the enemy!
Not all fats are created equal
There are three main types of dietary fats or fatty acids - saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Have you ever wondered what is “saturated” about saturated fats? To delve into the science for a moment, fats are made up of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Saturated fats are completely surrounded or “saturated” by hydrogen atoms, and are usually solid at room temperature. Monounsaturated fats have one double carbon bond and polyunsaturated have more than one double carbon bond. Saturated fats are therefore more stable and more suitable for cooking whereas unsaturated fats can denature at high temperatures.
- The food with the highest amount of saturated fat is coconut oil. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid and other medium chain triglycerides (MCT), which are easier for your body to use as they are converted to energy straight away.
- Other sources include meats, butter, ghee, cream, cheese.
Eat liberally, focus on whole food unprocessed sources
- Olive oil, avocados and macadamias are all good sources of monounsaturated fat.
- Many foods high in monounsaturated fats are also high in antioxidants and other nutrients.
Eat Omega 3 liberally, minimise Omega 6
- PUFAs are known as essential fats because the body cannot make them from scratch.
- You need to be careful of the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6, a standard diet will often be too high in Omega 6 requiring you to cut back and/or supplement with a good quality fish oil to rebalance.
- Long chain Omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA are particularly beneficial.
- Avoid vegetable oils such as soybean or sunflower oil - these are usually highly processed and can oxidise easily, depleting your body of antioxidants and leading to inflammation.
We have intentionally left out nasty transfats (hydrogenated oils such as margarine) from this graphic, these are highly inflammatory vegetable based oils found in processed foods and should be avoided at all costs!
While we traditionally like to think of each food as fitting into one specific fat type, the reality is a bit more complex. Each whole food will have a mixture of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Avocados for example are rich in monounsaturated fat, but also contain polyunsaturated fat and saturated fat.
Rather than focus too much on a specific type of fat, the best way to look at healthy fats is to choose whole food sources. Our next blog covers our five favourite sources of healthy fats.