The message of ‘Low Fat’ has been drummed into people wanting to lose weight so much that when I tell people they need to add fat into their diet, they are quite aghast! Not all fat is good for you—but some is not only good, but essential. AND having good fats in your diet can actually help you lose weight. So how do you know which is which? Today I wish to help you discover which to include or add to your diet and which to avoid.
What happens to foods labelled ‘Low Fat’?
When food manufacturers take fat out of a food (apart from when it’s skimmed off as in milk or trimmed off as in meat) it loses much of it structure. To ‘fix’ this food manufacturers add starches, gums and thickening agents to make it look as it did before the removal of the fat. Without its natural fat, food also tastes bland so sugar, and/or artificial sweeteners and flavourings are added. As the fat content is reduced, the carbohydrate content has been increases – in particular the quick-energy-release carbohydrates. Why is this important? It means your body will digest the food more quickly so you will feel hungry again more quickly – therefore ultimately eat more than if you had eaten the full-fat version. Worse still Low Fat foods with more sugar may increase your blood sugar levels which can so easily lead to your body laying down body fat. So apart from trimmed or skimmed off fat, please don’t be conned into buying “Low Fat” foods as a form of weight loss—they really don’t help you!
Good Fats vs Bad Fats
Fat molecules come in various different forms. Some you will have undoubtedly heard of; saturated, unsaturated and polyunsaturated (Flora used to heavily promote this as being good for you) and perhaps you have heard that saturated fats are bad and the others are good? Mmm… it not quite that easy as there are more classifications that include; monounsaturated and triglycerides and then fats whose structure has been changed in food processing such as hydrogenated, fractionation or rearrangement fats. Also trans fats which are a result of hydrogenation and also in cooking when you heat it beyond its natural smoke point. And now, your head is probably spinning! So instead of worrying about the science of it all, let me give you a few examples.
Butter is better than margarine. Butter contains saturated fats which, in excess, is not good for you, so use it sparingly. Margarine is made from liquid plant oils that are changed in structure to become solid. See more about this in an earlier blog: Butter or margarine? Which is best? In my opinion, all forms of margarine are best avoided in particular the low fat versions.
Virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil is one of the good fats. Coconut oil also contains saturated fats, but as medium-chain-triglycerides (good for you!). It contains lauric acid which has proven powerful antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.
Hydrogenated Fats will form trans fats. If you see Hydrogenated Fats listed in an ingredients list—put the food back on the shelf and DO NOT buy it!
Trimming excess fat off meat – is a good idea. There will still be fat within the meat itself: you don’t need more than this.
Olive Oil is a great oil to have in your diet. It’s mostly formed of monounsaturated fats and it contains oleic acid, high in Omega 9, which research has shown as been very good for you heart health and lowers cholesterol levels. Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil on salads and in cold foods. Use regular Olive Oil when cooking as the Extra Virgin version has a much lower smoke point.
Flaxseed Oil lowers your cholesterol levels. Another one of the good fats. It also contains lignans which provide protection against several forms of cancer. This is oil should not be heated. Add to smoothies – or sprinkle ground flaxseeds onto salads, porridge, yoghurt.
Avocado – fresh and as oil. Both are good for you! Like Olive Oil it contains the oleic acid. Avocados are a wonderful food – enjoy them regularly. The oil can go into smoothies.
Other good fats are found in: Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines, kippers etc, all nuts (avoid though peanuts which are really a nut) and many seeds, and the following oils; macadamia, almond, sesame seed, hemp seed and red palm.
Make one change…
Decide today to make one change for the better in terms of the fats you eat and don’t eat. Rather than feeling lost about all the changes you may need to make to your diet to make it ‘Clean’ or healthier, focus on just one step. In terms of ditching the bad and including a new good source, what will you decide to do?