We are always being told about new research (that often contradicts the old) with new rules to consider when entering the maze of the supermarket!
So with all this information I’ve decided to do my own research. Firstly, let’s break down into the groups of fats:
1. Saturated Fats
Only a few years ago we were told that all saturated fats were bad and cause an increase in cholesterol levels leading to a higher risk of heart disease; this then resulted in the low-fat food produce boom!
In fact there is inconclusive evidence to prove saturated fats have a direct correlation with heart disease. The second area to consider is that there are two types of cholesterol – HDL and LDL or “good” and “bad” as they are more often referred to. The trick is to increase the good and decrease the bad – but that’s not as simple as it sounds!
The key is if you are going to cut out some saturated food sources you should think carefully about what you are replacing it with:
– Low-fat alternatives aren’t a good idea, as I mentioned before you need fat and this removes a whole fat source; this has the impact of reducing the levels of good and bad cholesterol. It is also important to know that it is also this fat that makes you feel full so say hello to a hungry belly, or more likely the manufacturers will load it with sugar instead. Surprisingly this is recommended by the NHS – click here!
– Refined carbohydrates (if you don’t know these are basically highly processed plant-based carbohydrates which have everything removed except the highly digestible starch/sugar base). Again not great as it can make good cholesterol go down which you need to sweep up the bad – nightmare!
– Other “good” fats especially polyunsaturated, this has the benefit of retaining the fat source required by the body to function optimally while having a positive effect reducing bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol. Certainly not a bad option and the one that the British Heart Foundation are still recommending – click here.
However, as always the key is in moderation and there is good research that shows that in good proportion with other fats this is the most beneficial option. Additional benefits are boosting brain functionality, helps immune system, supports nervous system and strengthens your bones – now how can that be bad?
Food sources include: full fat milk, cheese & butter, animal fats, nuts
2. Unsaturated Fats
These form two groups – mono and polyunsaturated fats which are typically liquid at room temperature.
Generally these are known as the “good” fats and are strongly encouraged as part of a healthy diet. Polyunsaturated are particularly good and break down into Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats – both are well renowned for reducing the risk of heart disease but many of us struggle to consume enough.
Food sources include: Oily fish (sardines, mackerel, salmon), walnuts, flaxseed, eggs, sesame oil
3. Trans Fatty Acids (aka. Trans Fats)
The new kid on the block, this is a hydrogenated vegetable oil in a process which stabilises the fat and can turn the fats into solids.
What you need to know is this stuff isn’t great. It increases our bad cholesterol and decreases our good cholesterol levels, contributes to insulin resistance and can have significant health implications. This really is the bad boy not saturated fats! Movements are being made within the food industry and government policy to make these more visible in our foods with the view of banning them all together.
Food sources include: fried food, processed snacks, margarine
Conclusion from me is moderation with saturated and unsaturated fats – try to get these from good natural sources with no/minimal processing and stay clear away from the bad boy trans fats!! But what do you think?