Ah, the unmentionable ‘F word’… Fat of course.
How many times have you heard that eating fat will clog your arteries and actually cause you yourself to become fat, as if ‘you are what you eat’ suddenly became true.
Or how about when you are browsing the aisles in the supermarket and see ‘reduced fat’, ‘low fat’, ‘0% fat!’ on half of the products available.
They are putting so much effort in to taking fat out of our foods that it must be bad for us, right?
Well, not quite.
Fats are actually an essential part of the human diet.
They are great for our skin, hair, and nails and transport essential vitamins around the body. They form the building blocks for our hormones, Help us to produce immune cells, and they provide a vital source of energy during our day to day activities.
So, now that we have established that fat is not the boogieman that it is made out to be, how much should we be eating?
It is recommended that around 20-30% of our daily energy intake comes from fat. This will of course vary from person to person depending on preference and whether we are engaging in any strenuous physical activity.
So, before you go reaching for the deep-fried foods, let’s talk about the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats.
Fats exist along a spectrum, generally relating to how easy they are to break down.
The fats that are usually referred to as ‘good’ fats are known as unsaturated or polyunsaturated fats (don’t worry, you won’t be tested on the long name), and these are generally easier to break down.
It is recommended that most of your daily fats come from these groups, and you should be looking to foods like fish, beans, avocado, nuts, seeds, and just about any other plant sources.
So now to the ‘bad’ fats.
Saturated fats have been given a bad rep for many years, often being quoted as the reason the obesity epidemic!
In fact, saturated fats are just as essential to our bodies production as the ‘good’ fats.
Foods like meat, eggs, and dairy are great sources of saturated fats that are essential to our good health.
Now let’s get to the problems.
Fats store a lot of energy.
If you think about the role that stored fat plays in the human body, it is not surprising that a gram of fat contains more that double the energy than a gram of carbohydrate or protein.
Also, fat is used as an additive in many products that you will find in the shop, sometimes as a binding agent or sometimes because it’s just so damn delicious!
This means that it is very easy to overdo it on the calories if you are buying pre-made meals and snacks.
Now, you know that I basically said that all fats were good, well I might have bent the truth a little.
Since the industrial revolution, food preparation moved out of the kitchen and in to the factory. It was in this environment when some clever chap discovered that you could use refined vegetable oils instead of animal fats, saving a fortune. Hooray!
Well, since then, the particular fats in question have been named as trans fats, and although they rarely exist in nature, they have become a regular part of many of our diets.
Trans fats have been shown to be pretty terrible for the health of our heart, arteries, and just about anything else that has been studied.
These Trans fats are abundant in cakes, cookies, deep fried food, some ready meals, and the majority of foods which come pre-packaged.
We should try to limit our daily trans fat intake to trace amounts, so lay off the cakes and grab a handful of nuts.
We need fats and should not fear having a healthy intake of high fat foods, we just need to be careful that we are taking the high energy content into consideration.
Start to look to get your fats from whole sources and a good balance of meat, fish, dairy, eggs, nuts, beans, lentils, and other things from the earth.
If you stick to this then you can’t go far wrong.
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