For many years, we have been hearing conflicting advice about fats. We have been told that the only way to weight loss is by adhering to a low fat diet, to stop eating saturated fats because it will cause a heart attack, and it seems that the opinion on what fats are “good” and “bad” is always changing. So let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about fats and the best fats to include in our diets.
Myth # 1 : Fats make you fat
There has been a lot of money made out of the low fat diet myth. In every supermarket, there is row upon row of low fat products, promising to help you lose weight. The truth is that your body makes fat from carbohydrates (sugars), very rarely from fat in the diet. This is one of the reasons that people find it hard to lose weight and keep the weight off, because there are too many carbohydrates (sugars) and not enough fat in the diet. Beneficial fats will help your body regulate metabolism and also give you a feeling of satiety, so you actually eat less. That is not to say you can eat copious amounts of fat and still expect to lose weight, but if you eat the right fats and the correct amount it will actually assist with your weight loss.
Myth # 2 : Saturated fat is bad
Saturated fat is essential for the production of our hormones and the healthy functioning of our lungs, liver, immune system, brain, and heart (Yes, heart!! Contrary to popular misinformation). In comparison to other fats, intake should be lower but nonetheless it is a very important fat. The saturated fat from non-organic animal sources should however be avoided, as this is where excess hormones and toxins are stored. One very beneficial saturated fat is coconut oil, so refer to the table below for good fat choices.
Myth # 3: Margarine is a healthier option than butter
If I had to choose one piece of health advice to give to clients, it would most likely be to ditch the margarine. Margarine is touted as the cholesterol free option, so they say it is good for your health, in particular heart health (this is another myth, for another article). What the manufacturers don’t tell you is that margarine is actually a trans-fatty acid (TFA). TFAs are made when the structure of the fat molecule is altered via a hydrogenation process, which allows it to remain solid at room temperature. Research has shown that TFA’s can increase LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and lower HDL (the “good” cholesterol). TFA’s also cause inflammation throughout the body, which is never good. In fact, TFA’s have been proven to be so bad for our health that the US Food and Drug Administration is looking to ban them from fast foods and Sweden’s parliament has already passed laws to ban them.
Myth #4: Low fat diets are healthier
Fat is an essential component of every single cell in our body. It is that important! We cannot live without fat, and we cannot live a healthy, well balanced life without the correct amount, and the correct types of fat in our diet. Fat is an important source of energy – slow release, sustaining energy that doesn’t cause those terrible spikes in our blood sugar levels that refined carbohydrates cause. Certain fats help to reduce inflammation in our body, and inflammation is a key driver of many different types of disease. Without enough fat in our diet, we couldn’t absorb the fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A, D, E and K. So ditch the low fat diet, and incorporate healthy fats into your everyday eating plan.
Myth # 5: oil is oil
There are various methods of extracting oil, some good and some very, very bad. If oils are heat extracted it can create trans-fats and make the oil rancid, bombarding your body with those nasty free radicals. Other oils are extracted using various chemicals, Canola oil being one of them. So it is important to go for an oil that has been extracted using chemical free, cold extraction methods
Here is a list of some good and not so good oils
Margarine, Nuttlex and plant oil based spreads, Canola Oil, Deep fried foods, Copha (hydrogenated), Sunflower oil, Cooking spray oil, Hydrogenated oils, Vegetable oils, Rice Bran oil (extreme heat and chemicals used in processing)
Organic animal fats, Organic chicken skin, Organic Butter, Organic Ghee
Avocado oil (unheated), Almond oil (unheated), Coconut oil (best for cooking), Extra virgin Olive oil (unheated and low temperature cooking), Fish oils (unheated), Flaxseed oil (unheated), Hemp seed oil (unheated), Linseed oil (unheated), Macadamia oil (unheated), Sesame oil (unheated or low temperature cooking)
By Andrea Southern, Naturopath, Nutritionist, Herbalist at Stafford and The Gap in Brisbane. For an appointment phone 0412 791 705