F-A-T. One of the most controversial 3-letter words in the English language. We’re not here to judge anyone’s lifestyles or bodies, we’d only like to dispel one of the longest held beliefs about fats in food. Fat has often been portrayed as the ultimate dietary nemesis and most people have been trained to choose low-fat foods over high-fat ones.
However, fat is actually an essential part of any healthy diet and necessary for a strong body and mind! The key lies in which fats you choose to eat, healthy or unhealthy. Healthy fats – namely mono and poly unsaturated fats help to reduce bad cholesterol, keep your heart in good shape and benefit insulin levels. Unhealthy fats, of which trans fats are the worst and saturated fats partially so, increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
So where can you get these good fats and avoid the bad ones? Most of the sources of healthy fats are common knowledge, so we’ll list them out for you here:
- Avocado: Versatile, delicious, cholesterol free and jam packed with monounsaturated fats
- Nuts: One to the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, especially walnuts. Also rich in other vitamins and minerals, depending on the variety
- Nut & Seed Butters: An easier way to get all the fatty goodness of nuts.
- Olives & Olive Oil: A cup of olive contains 15g of fat, and one tbsp. of oil contains 14g.
- Fish: Oily fish like salmon, trout, tuna etc are full of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Dark Chocolate: Contains healthy fats, anti-oxidants, vitamins A, B & E… we could keep going!
- Tofu: Along with healthy fats, one serving of tofu contains almost a quarter of your daily calcium needs.
- Eggs: An inexpensive source of unsaturated fat, protein and choline.
Unhealthy fats on the other hand are generally found in the usual culprits – processed and fried foods. When purchasing food, look out for terms such as ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ oil on the nutrition label. Those are just fancy terms for hiding trans-fat, which is completely unnatural, produced under complex chemical conditions and extremely bad for you. It’s the common prevalence of these trans-fats and their adverse health impact that gives all fat a bad rap!
While saturated fat is not as harmful as trans fat it is still believed to increase cholesterol, which in turn can cause a host of other problems. In other words, while unsaturated fats are actively healthy, saturated fats are now considered neutral to the body in the within the correct quantities. These are hence best had in moderation, up to 15g per day. Common sources of saturated fat are butter, cream, red meat and cheese.
So that’s the low down on fat – the good, the bad and the ugly. However, one thing that we would like to reinforce is that just like the right friends, the right fats are in fact extremely beneficial for you! Most dieticians would recommend up to 20-35% of you daily calorie intake coming from fat, for a normal individuals diet. Some celebrity nutritionists like Rujuta Dwivedkar even promote the intake of healthy fats like ghee! So let’s not demonize all fat and instead make informed, conscious decisions to replace the bad with the good in our diets.