Rarely a month goes by without some new research into fats and the effect it they have on our diet and lifestyle, but do you really understand the role of fat in your diet?
A new study shows that diets high in saturated fat increase inflammation in the part of the brain that controls hunger, causing it to malfunction, which in turn triggers a domino effect leading to obesity and related metabolic disorders.
Banning fats from processed foods might seem like an extreme decision, but health experts proclaim it could be the way to save thousands of lives every single year.
The shocking figures suggest that more than 7,000 deaths every year from heart disease could be prevented if artificial fats are banned.
The artificial fat is used to improve the taste, texture, and shelf-life of processed foods, although trans fats also occur naturally in dairy foods, such as whole milk and some meats.
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Importance of fat in the diet
We need to get some fats from food because it energises our bodies and ensures the absorption of particular nutrients that we need.
A properly balanced meal should include a decent amount of healthy fats. This will satiate you, leaving you feeling satisfied, as well as helping to balance the meal which will balance your blood sugar levels, which will result in more consistent energy levels and better metabolism all round, which will result in healthier weight ultimately.
What is the role of fat in the diet
So why exactly do we need fat in our diet? Dr Maryiln Glenville, the author of Fat Around the Middle, explains that fat is essential for our diet as it helps to build the cell membranes and form sheaths surrounding nerves too. Eating fat is also vital for muscle movement, inflammation and blood clotting.
It's important to note that there are different types of fats, with some being better for our health than others. The bad ones are trans fats which are man-made, and the good fats we need to eat include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.
How to add fat to your diet
Current UK health guidelines recommend that:
- The average man should eat no more than 95g of fat a day (30g of saturated fat a day)
- The average woman should eat no more than 70g of fat a day (20g of saturated fat a day)
Ms Robyn Coetzee, Specialist Dietitian at London Bridge Hospital explains: “Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter, pies, cakes and biscuits, sausages, bacon, cheese and cream. Although there is a debate around them, there are healthier alternatives for people, which they could consume. For example, “choose lean cuts of meat and trim away any visible fat, and choose lower fat alternatives to whole milk, cheese, and cream”.
“Alternatively, you should also have a diet high in dark-fleshed or oily fish for example sardines, herrings, pilchards, mackerel, salmon, tuna, trout, swordfish whitebait, anchovies, crab, sprats, and kippers. They are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to stop blood clotting and lower the amount of blood cholesterol the body creates."
Sources of fat in the diet
Dr Marilyn Glenville explains the different sources of fat in our diet.
A polyunsaturated fat has two or more double bonds in its carbon chain. There are two main types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega 6 and 3 should both be present in your diet but in a proper ratio n6:n3 of 2:1. The Western diet is usually very high in n6 and low on n3 and that can cause a pro-inflammatory state very damaging for our organism.
Inflammation is linked to many chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, many cancers, most inflammatory diseases, and many psychological disturbances. To avoid this dangerous chronic low-grade inflammation state, have a diet higher in n3 than n6 especially coming from wild catch oily fish and if you eat meat, organic grass fed meat.
If you eat a diet that is filled with saturated fats it's going to have a negative effect on your cholesterol, as well as blocking arteries.
It's suggested that we should limited saturated fat in our diet to less than 10% of calories a day.
When shopping for foods in your supermarket you must be aware that because the food is low in fat or fat-free, the likelihood is that it has been replaced with sugars or sweeteners to make it edible, so stick to natural foods wherever you can.
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) could reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering your total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels but maintain your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level. Research shows that MUFAs can also help improve the elasticity of your blood vessels; they could benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.
Trans fat is made to transform oils into solid by hydrogenation (by adding a hydrogen atom to the oil molecule the oil will turn solid).
Trans fat is the type that you want to avoid as much as possible because it increases bad cholesterol and reduces the good cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Trans fats can cause inflammation in the body which is linked to a number of conditions like diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
Simple ways to add good fats to your diet
- Eat oily fish regularly, you want to try to include a few servings each week of salmon, mackerel and trout
- Use mashed avocado in a number of recipes, things like brownies, as a replacement for butter on sandwiches
- Use coconut oil to cook with
- Eat nut butter with apples or bananas for a nutritious, filling and healthy dessert option or snack
- Add a sprinkling of nuts or seeds to salads to help get a dose of healthy fats
- Keep snack packs of nuts to carry around with you as a snack, they're really filling because of the healthy fats and protein too