If you read my posts last week about the reasons we get fat and how we can shed excess fat you may have noticed that I said to avoid low fat products. I didn’t go as far as saying eat fats, but I should have. Fats are good for you, you need them as part of your diet and despite what you may think, eating fat will not necessarily make you fat.
Why do we need them?
- They are a source of energy. Fats provide 9 calories of energy per gram compared to 4 calories per gram of Carbohydrate. In fact they are the primary energy source for nearly everything we do. It is only when we start to exercise at much higher intensities that we predominantly use glycogen (derived from Carbohydrates).
- They help with nerve and brain function by insulating our nerves
- They are essential parts of the cell membrane and in turn help us to maintain healthy skin amongst various other benefits
- They are needed to transport and help us absorb important vitamins such as A, D, E, and K. These vitamins cannot be absorbed without fat.
- They provide ESSENTIAL Omega 3. I am going to write a post about Omega 3 very soon but needless to say it is important to have this in our diet…
Healthy sources of fat
First, a quick lesson about cholesterol. There are two types, HDL (high density lipo-protein) and LDL (low density lipo-protein). HDL = good, LDL = bad. So if we have high amounts of cholesterol in the form of HDL that is a good thing and what we want to achieve. Mono-unsaturated fats raise our HDL levels whilst lowering LDL levels. Polyunsaturated fats lower our LDL but have no affect on HDL, which is still a good response. Finally, recent research now suggests saturated fat is ok despite it increasing both HDL and LDL.
Best foods (high in mono-unsaturated fats)
- Olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil, peanut oil
- Nuts (macademia nuts have the highest amounts of mono-unsaturated fats, closely followed by hazelnuts)*
- Nut butters (but check the labels for sugar content and always go for unsweetened)
Good foods (high in polyunsaturated)
The above plus:
- Fish (especially fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel)*
- Seeds such as sunflower, chia, and flax*
Other good foods (high in saturated fat)
- Coconut and Coconut oil
- Full fat plain Greek yoghurt (check the labels for sugar content)
- High % dark chocolate
- Full fat milk (check the sugar content)
- Butter and Lard
I wont go into detail but some believe dairy, i.e. cheese and milk that are high in saturated fats, to be inflammatory and not necessarily a healthy food source. Each individual will know if dairy causes them weight gain and or inflammation and whether to restrict or remove from their diet. If you are not sure how dairy affects you then try removing it and slowly re-introducing it to your diet to see the effect it has on your body. If you choose to remove it from your diet there are some great coconut and nut based
substitutes for milk.
NOTE: foods with an * next to them indicate they are also very good sources of essential omega 3
Fat to avoid
The fat to avoid is Trans fats. As you may have guessed by now trans fats increase LDL levels and decrease HDL levels. They are responsible for clogging arteries and leading to serious health problems. As I wrote in my posts last week you will not get fat eating one chocolate bar or get skinny eating one salad. The same principle applies here. If you eat food containing high amounts of trans fats once in a blue moon it isn’t going to turn you into Augustus Gloop, especially if you are regularly eating foods high in mono-unsaturated fats. However, you do want to ensure that your intake of these fats is low and irregular. Here are a list of foods high in Trans fats:
- Fast food
- Hydrogenated oils i.e. margarine
- Ice cream
- Deep fried food
- Cakes, pies, and cookies (especially if they have icing/frosting)
As I have mentioned, check food labels when purchasing foods and try to limit or even remove the trans fats in your diet. As discussed in my last post, there are lots of healthy substitutes out there and some great recipes to make healthier versions of your favourite fast food and cakes. Go follow LucyBeeCoconutOil, The Body Coach, The Beltsander to get you started.