Which fats are best?August 2019
Fats and oils are by far the most confusing element of nutrition for so many. In the 80s low fat was king! We were told that the fat caused weight gain, heart disease, cholesterol issues and more. Fat was evil and we should all eat low fat. In fact, fats actually have a huge benefit to our overall health.
Types of fats
Stick with me here, I’m about to get REALLLL technical. There are three types of fats; saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats. The key difference between these is chemistry based. Saturated fatty acids are covered / saturated with hydrogen atoms. Making them incredibly stable, therefore their ability to oxidise and react with other substances in the body is reduced.
Unsaturated fats, have hydrogen bonds missing. You may have heard of mono-unsaturated (one), or poly-unsaturated (many), these are less stable than saturated but just as beneficial for the body. You just need to monitor their storage, they oxidise easily, so must be kept in dark cool places to ensure their health benefits.
Lastly, trans fats are produced through a highly intensive chemical and mechanical process called hydrogenation. They extract the oil from the original product and add hydrogen atoms to the fatty acid chain to make a stable product similar to saturated fats, but with less health benefits.
Which fats should you eat?
A little saturated.
A little more unsaturated.
Little to no trans fats.
Saturated fats help absorb our fat soluble vitamins, and other nutrients such as calcium, protect our liver, support heart health, are a great source of energy, may support fat burning and immunity. The widely spoken of risk of saturated fats is that it contributes to cardiovascular disease. Well, the jury (aka research) is still out on this. It is still too conflicting to give a definitive answer. But what all research has shown is that the type of fat and the rest of the diet is the key contributing factor to health. ie; if you’re avoiding saturated fats, but over consuming lollies, cakes, chips, etc this will greatly impact your health (surely that’s not rocket science?).
Unsaturated fats like saturated fats are full of nutritional benefit. They promote healthy cholesterol, reduce inflammation, support your cardiovascular system, reduce blood pressure. Two incredibly well know unsaturated fats are Omega-3 and Omega-6. Honestly, we’re all probably overdoing the Omega-6 fatty acids and need more Omega-3 fatty acids. Don’t worry, I got your back; Click here to download a list of the different foods and their fat category. You’ll see all the delicious food available to eat in the saturated and unsaturated lists.
All research however, agrees that Trans Fats are not great for health, beyond their impact on heart health, they also appear to increase body inflammation and insulin resistance, thus the heart health risk cycle continues.
What about keto?
The keto diet has really put fats in the spotlight lately. Whilst keto has its place for some medical conditions, in my opinion long term it may impact health. I think many of the benefits seen by those who advocate keto is the fact they’re actually eating a much more nutrient dense diet than they previously did. The risk is ketosis is a much slower process and the implications on longer term metabolism is where I am a little gun shy.
This blog is a little more technical than I usually write. The key take away I want you to have is a little fat in your diet is essential to health, alongside a well balanced diet.
Until next time… x
Written by Jessica Worth, Nutritionist, Sydney, Northern Beaches, Mona Vale
Jess is a nutritionist for women, breaking down the confusing world of nutrition into simple, informative advice that you can integrate into your every day life.