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Eat those Healthy Fats: How to know which fats to choose

Who else has been confused about fats at some point in their lifetime?

Over the past decades, there have been numerous articles and statements that lead to the stigma that fat will make you fat. This in turn led to the introduction of low-fat and non-fat foods and diets, with the hope of weight loss and bettering our health.  However, low-fat diets are high in refined sugars and starches, which often leads to weight gain or little weight loss.  Studies show that low-carbohydrate diet opposed to low-fat showed more significant effect on weight and key biomarkers such as decreases in triglycerides and non-HDL cholesterol.  Low-carbohydrate diets are filled with high fat and protein content, therefore, while the idea of fats can be scary, learning why our body need fats is a great place to start to rectify the unknown and previous myths about fats.

WHY DO WE NEED FATS IN THE DIET?

Healthy fats are needed to maintain a balanced diet.  Fats are a great source of energy, coming in at 9kcal/g compared to 4kcal/g from carbohydrates that keep us going throughout the day. Fats also make us feel satisfied due to taste and keep us fuller for longer as fats are slower to digest in the body. In addition, fats also help with the functioning of the nervous system, maintaining healthy skin and tissues, and transporting fat-soluble vitamins. Fats make up around 60% of the brain, and it has been found that fatty acids are crucial for the brains ability to perform.  Therefore, eating the right fats, will see an improvement in brain performance and mood.

GOOD FATS VS. BAD FATS 

We should be saying yes to unsaturated fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated and we should be limiting our saturated fat intake.  Studies have shown that reducing saturated fat intake has been associated with increasing lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) receptors, which decreases the LDL-cholesterol in humans (bad cholesterol).

The key fats we should be consuming are omega-3 fatty acids.  There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids; alpha linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  However, these fatty acids cannot be synthesised in the body on its own, therefore they must be attained through the diet, hence where the term essential fatty acids come from.

The next obstacle is choosing the right fats; obviously some fats are not as nutritious as others as I just stated above.  However, balance is key and the odd saturated fat; for example, pizza is not going to make you put on weight, just how the odd polyunsaturated fat for example, avocados will not reap the stated health benefits.  This doesn’t mean all saturated fats need to be cut out, just be mindful to the nutrition behind them and what benefits you are receiving; still enjoy and include the foods you love but you do need to eat less food that are low in nutrition to obtain the benefits.

TOP SOURCES OF HEALTHY FATS:

  • Avocado – Contains oleic acid which has been linked to reducedinflammation.

  • Oily Fish – Rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Coconut Oil – Medium-chain fatty acids that improve brain and memory function.

  • Nuts – Reduce total and LDL cholesterol, increasing HDL “good” cholesterol levels.

MODERATION IS KEY

The last thing to mention is to always remember portion control, even though avocados are great sources of healthy fats, ½ an avocado is the regular portion size for a meal such as avocado on toast so don’t overdo it. But also, be mindful that there are other nutrients needed in your diet; protein, carbohydrates, vitamins etc. and when people are told to eat fats they sometimes will cut out other food groups which creates an unbalanced diet.

To be healthy, yes, some refined sugars or other foods may need to be cut down or changed for other alternatives, but they are not to be cut out completely. Therefore, remember everything in moderation; one doughnut will not demean the nutritious food you have previously eaten. Eat nutritious, whole foods and have the odd treat, and you’ll be set for a great start to healthy lifestyle.

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