Fat is bad for you
Fact - Not all fats are created equal. Research shows that unsaturated fats may lower your cardiovascular risk (which is particularly important for people with inflammatory arthritis) and keep you full longer, encouraging weight loss. The omega-3 fats found in fish and walnuts may even ease inflammation. Watch out for saturated fat, which has the opposite effect. All fats are high in energy and have an identical calorie value (9kcal per gram), so their effect on your waistline is the same. The big difference is their effect on your cholesterol levels, so it’s important to consider the type as well as the amount of fat you are eating. Industrially produced Trans fats and too much saturated fat can increase the risk of coronary heart disease by raising the level of harmful LDL cholesterol, which can contribute to blood vessel blockage. Swapping saturated fats in your diet for unsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol levels. Tran’s fats have largely been removed from UK food, average intakes are now below recommended maximums. However, we’re still exceeding recommended amounts of saturated fats. These include butter, lard and ghee, plus coconut and palm oil (often found in confectionery and biscuits). Saturated fats are also in whole milk, cream, cheese, cakes and chocolate. Swapping saturated fats in your diet for unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) can help lower cholesterol levels. Find unsaturated fats in avocados, olive, rapeseed and sunflower oils, oily fish, seeds and nuts. As our understanding develops, it’s clear we need to consider the overall balance of our diets. A Mediterranean-style diet is famously associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, attributed to the inclusion of olive oil, grains, beans, lentils, fruit, vegetables, oily fish and nuts. This is not a low-fat diet, but the fats are mostly unsaturated. It seems to be the overall combination that makes it so successful. There was a time when it seemed every food marketed and manufactured was fat-free or offered a fat-free alternative. Fat tastes good! And fats are also slower to digest in our body, versus carbohydrates. So, with the removal of fat the addition of other ingredients including sugar, salt or other unhealthy ingredients occurs in order to make up for removed flavor, texture and taste. Along with the fat-free craze came the notion that the more fat you eat the more fat you will have on your body. While it is true that per gram fat yields higher calorie than protein or carbohydrate (9 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram), the type of macronutrient isn’t the root of the problem. Rather, overall total calorie intake and exceeding your daily calorie needs is likely to result in increased weight gain. Excessive intake of Tran’s fats may increase your risk of heart disease, plant-based sources of unsaturated fat can help support heart health. Monounsaturated fats may positively influence cholesterol in the body, thus supporting heart health. These fats may help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the body thus supporting heart health. Good sources of monounsaturated fats include avocado, olives, olive oil, almonds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
Today there are just as many articles out there promoting a high-fat diet as there are shunning it. And, thanks to many people seeing weight changes by restricting carbohydrates and increasing fats, it has become a popular way of eating. However, you can overdo it. As mentioned above, there are some fats you should be avoiding all together, others you should limit, and some that you need to make sure you’re including!
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines help us navigate this by recommending the following:
- Consume less than 10% of your calories per day from saturated fat.
- Total fat intake for adults age 19 and older should make up 20% to 35% of your diet. This means if you eat 2,000 calories per day around 500 of those calories will come from fat. Aim to hit this goal from the unsaturated good fats.
Reach for whole food sources of unsaturated fat like:
- Avocados (monounsaturated fat)
- Olives (monounsaturated fat)
- Nuts (walnuts are rich in Omega-3s ALA)
- Seeds (chia, flax and hemp seeds are rich in Omega-3s ALA, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds are rich in monounsaturated fats)
- Cold-pressed oils (Such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, hempseed oil)