Let’s talk about fat in this the third instalment of the Food Glorious Food (FGF) blogs.
Fat is another of the three main macronutrient food groups (Carbs and Protein being the other 2); it therefore also serves a very important role in the preparation of our day-to-day nutrition.
Despite the fact that some might immediately look at ‘Fat’ as a negative in terms of nutrition, the right sort of Fat is needed for a healthy and balanced diet. It is only when too much, too little or the wrong kind of fat is consumed that it can then become detrimental to health, and lead to ailments such as coronary heart disease.
Let’s have a closer look at Fats categorisation to get a better understanding of what kinds of fats we need, and the kinds we need to avoid.
Fats & Oils – Intro
As I mentioned before, Fats are essential to our everyday survival and well-being, the quality and quantity we consume is therefore key!
When consumed appropriately, Fats act as a major energy source, insulate the body and also act as a shield/cushion for vital internal organs. They also slow the digestion process down, and instil a sense of being full quicker. Safe to say the health benefits are quite vast.
Fats are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, it is how all these elements are bonded that ascertains what category each kind of fat falls into.
To keep things straightforward, there are two kinds of fats, Bad (Saturated and Trans) and Good (Unsaturated)
Saturated Fat is generally fat that remains hard at room temperature, and comes from animal products like cream, cheese and the fat from meat products. It can also be found in nut oils like Palm and Coconut.
Over consumption of Saturated Fat can lead to higher cholesterol and obesity levels, as well as risks of heart disease. It's worth noting that a small amount of saturated fat is acceptable in a healthy diet.
Trans Fat (Trans Fatty Acids) appear in small quantities in a wide range of foods. They provide very little or no health benefits, and invariably lead to serious health issues (like high levels of cholesterol) if consumed in high quantities.
Trans Fat is created by heating up (hydrogenation) liquid vegetable oil to make them more solid. It appears present in a lot of takeaways and food like fried breaded and battered foods like Chicken Nuggets, Onion Rings and Fish & Chips.
Trans Fat does also appear in small quantities in some dairy products like cheese, cream and butter and some, as well as animal fat.
They appear in baked snacks such as pizzas, pies, cakes, crackers, sweets, pastries and biscuits as partially hydrogenated oil (you should be able to spot this on the food’s ingredients list/label) Although the amount of Trans Fat appearing in food has dropped over the years, however it is still useful to check.
Unsaturated Fat - Good Fat
This is the type of fat most beneficial to a healthy diet, as it offers the benefits I covered before – Energy Source, Higher Levels of satiety. Over consumption can however still lead to a risk of heart disease. There are 2 types of Unsaturated Fat, these are Monounsaturated, and Polyunsaturated.
Monounsaturated Fat contains one unsaturated carbon bond (or double bond) in its structure, and tend to be liquid at room temperature, and turn solid in colder conditions. It can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, by reducing bad cholesterol levels.
Monounsaturated fat examples include Avocado, and Olive Oil as well as nut oils like almond, rapeseed and corn, these are rich in monounsaturated fats and also contribute the antioxidant vitamin E to the diet.
Polyunsaturated Fat contains multiple carbon bonds, and is always liquid at room temperature. It can also have a beneficial effect on the heart if consumed in moderation by reducing bad cholesterol levels. It also contributes Vitamin E (antioxidant) to the diet, and helps develop the body’s blood cells.
It is mostly found in algae, nuts, seeds, vegetable and fish Oils (Omega-3 & 6)
Examples include Seaweed, Chia & Sesame Seeds, Soybeans, Sardines, Mackerel and Salmon.
It’s almost impossible to tailor your diet in such a way that you completely avoid Bad Fat as all foods will have a combination of different Fats. The predominant Fat category defines whether the food is bad or good fat. For instance, most animal fat contains some saturated fat, although chicken and turkey contain far less than red meat, while plants and fish is generally unsaturated.
So to keep the right kind of Fat in your diet, stick to Good Fats, cook your own food as much as possible, and try and eliminate takeaways, baked and fried foods!
Most importantly….Have fun with your nutrition and food prep!
Hi, Lou here, I'll be sharing my thoughts and insights via my blog regularly, so please stay tuned!