When it comes to the ‘F’ word, there’s a whole bunch of different terms thrown around. Saturated, trans and monounsaturated are just a couple of a jumble of phrases used to describe the different fats found in the food we eat.
Add to that the notion of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats, and you’d be forgiven for wanting to hide behind the couch and avoid fat in general!
When we’re trying to lose weight and eat healthily, it would seem logical that fat is the enemy. The truth of the matter is however that we need some of the right kind of fat in our diet.
It all comes down to knowing the difference between the fats that are good and beneficial for our bodies, and the fats that are the opposite.
‘Good’ fat helps keep our metabolisms firing by providing our bodies with energy and essential fatty acids. These fats also help our bodies to absorb certain nutrients more efficiently.‘Bad’ fats however have the opposite effect on our bodies, increasing cholesterol levels and in turn the risk of things like heart disease, weight gain and high blood pressure.
So which fats should we try and include and which do we try and avoid?
- Unsaturated fats are the good guys when it comes to fat. When it comes to fat in our diets, the majority should be unsaturated. Unsaturated fats can actually help counteract the nasty effects of the bad fats (but we definitely shouldn’t rely on their bad guy fighting powers and overindulge in the naughty kind of fat). Unsaturated fats can be divided into two main types; polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.
- Polyunsaturated fats – These fats are found in plant based oils like sunflower and rapeseed oils, along with nuts and seeds. Super fatty acid Omega-3 is also classified as a polyunsaturated fat. Polyunsaturated fat can help keep our brains and hearts healthy and can also lower cholesterol levels.
- Monounsaturated fats – We’ve all heard how good a Mediterranean diet is for our health? This is because it contains high levels of monounsaturated fats. Olive oil, sesame oil, avocados, and peanut butter all contain high levels of monounsaturated fats. Similarily to polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats can also help lower cholesterol and boost heart health.
- Saturated fats are considered to be the ‘bad guys’ of the fat world as they do not have a huge amount of positive health benefits for your body. Found in animal products like fatty cuts of meat, full fat dairy, some vegetable oils and many pre-packaged and manufactured foods like deep fried takeaways, cakes and donuts and biscuits, saturated fats increase the ‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood leading to a variety of health issues. However, it is worth noting that there is some new research showing that a little saturated fat found in animal fats is thought to be beneficial to our health – but opinion is divided and the Heart Foundation advises reducing saturated fat in your diet.
- Trans fats – Trans fats are a type of saturated fat and fall into two categories; naturally occurring and artificially created. Naturally occurring trans fats are found in small amounts in dairy products and meat. Choosing lean cuts and low fat dairy can help minimise the amounts your ingesting. The artificial kind are created when certain liquid oils are hardened into partially hydrogenated fats. Trans fats are particularly nasty as they not only increase the ‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood but also deplete the ‘good’ meaning that they have a significant impact on the body.
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