Fat! Your one single biggest enemy against your more likely than not prolonged weight loss battle. Your biggest deterrent against getting that fit, slim and svelte body that is equally at home on a beach as it is at the poshest clubs and restaurants during night outs. That one thing that everyone has told you will lead to genetic and long term health risks such as heart attacks, diabetes, kidney and liver diseases amongst other things. Well, everything you’ve heard, been told or even read about fats being the enemy is not always correct! And we’re going to tell you WHY!
This is because like human beings in general, not all fats are created equal either. While this may seem a little deep, it is also true. Consumption of certain fats is actually good for the human body and is an energy provider both to the mind and the kinetic system that helps keep you going. Knowing this difference though is imperative. This way you will not shun what is good for you and you’ll also be mindful of the fats that are definitely harmful for the body in both the short and longer runs.
Research continues to evolve rapidly on dietary fat content, and with every passing day some facts become clearer and clearer. Dietary fat or better known as fatty acids, are found in food derived both from plants and animals. It is important to know that fat is as essential to a healthy and balanced diet as protein and carbs are. Especially in fuelling the body with energy.
Notably, some bodily functions also rely on fat presence for eg, some vitamins need fat to dissolve into the bloodstream to provide nutrients. However, like we all already know too much of anything is never a good idea. Excess calories from too much of fat consumption of both the good or bad type will lead to you gaining significant amounts of weight. Most foods and oils contain both good and bad fats. Their utility [or the lack of it] to the body is best decided by the predominant type of fat in the oil or food.
Now that you’re all up to speed on how not all fat is bad for you, let’s actually tell you the type of fat to stay away from.
There are two particular types of fats that have been identified through thorough research which are known to be potentially hazardous and harmful to human health. These are known as saturated fat and trans fat. A good way to identify food that contains either one or both of these bad fats is to check if they can maintain their solidity even at room temperature. A few glaring examples include butter, margarine and animal fat. While trans fat should ideally be avoided completely, saturated fats could be consumed but with caution and very sparingly.
Most saturated fats are usually found in foods high in animal fats. These include high-fat meat and dairy products. Consuming saturated fats in high quantities can lead to increased blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein levels. Some examples of saturated fat include:
• Fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb
• Dark chicken meat and poultry skin
• Whole milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, ice cream
Trans fat appears largely in foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. These are the absolute worst kinds of fats for you and are known to have significant health repercussions. Trans fat raises bad cholesterol levels and suppresses good cholesterol in the body. Doctors also often link trans fats to an increased risk for inflammation which can cause harmful effects like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Some examples of trans fat include:
• French fries, doughnuts and other deep-fried fast foods
• Margarine and Vegetable shortening
• Baked goods like cookies, cakes, and pastries
• Packaged and processed snacks
However, certain saturated fats have a positive effect when consumed appropriately. Coconut oil is a matter of debate here. While it contains high amounts of
saturated fat that are known to adversely affect blood cholesterol levels, it is also shown to have a positive effect on heart health and HDL cholesterol (the good kind). Research has shown that coconut oil when consumed as a part of the totally daily allowance of fat consumption may actually be beneficial for you. It is a problem when consumed in excess, and over and above your fat consumption limit. The verdict – consume in moderation to reap the positive benefits.
Like there are two types of bad fats, there are also similarly two types of good fats which dieticians, physicians and nutritionists tend to prescribe as a part of a healthy and balanced diet. These are known as monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat or then simpler to say heart-healthy fats. Including both these fats in your diet is a better and safer health choice. A good way to identify foods with healthier fat is to look out for liquids over solids. Foods that primarily contain these healthier fats tend to be liquid at room temperature.
Research shows that consuming foods rich in monounsaturated fat helps improve blood cholesterol level and decreases risk of cardiovascular disease. These foods include:
• Most Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, hazelnuts etc)
• Unrefined vegetable oils (olive oil, peanut oil)
• Nut Butter (natural)
Polyunsaturated fats are also known as essential fats and the term just about speaks for itself. These are fats which the body just cannot do without and they should ideally be
a part of any healthy and balanced diet. Omega 3 fats are a key component of this family of fats. The 3 most important kinds of Omega3 fats are ALA, EPA and DHA. ALA is generally found in plant based foods like nuts and seeds while EPA and DHA are found in animal food sources (fatty fish and fish oil). This kind of fat can be found in:
• Roasted soy beans and soy nut butter
• Walnuts (omega 3 – ALA)
• Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds (omega 3 – EPA & DHA)
• Fatty fish (salmon, tuna) and fish oil (omega 3 – EPA & DHA)
• Corn oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil
There you have it. A complete guide on the type of fats that you should be running a mile away from and the types of fats that will in fact help your body run a mile! Remember to choose well and keep looking for the source of the fat on the nutrition label of the products that you are buying. Keep the good ones, even if they are high, and pass on the bad ones.