Since the 1970’s and the introduction of low fat foods, fat has had a pretty bad wrap. The truth is, now many people are lacking a good fatty acid balance in their diet and as a result are fatty acid deficient. This is a concern because fats play such an important role in our body.
Our brain and every cell membrane in the body is primarily made of fat.
Fats are required for the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins A, E, D, and K.
Fatty acids are needed to create neurotransmitters and healthy hormones.
We don’t need to be fearful of fat, fat is all about quality and balance. There is only one bad fat and that is trans-fat, the rest are all players and can be good or bad, depending on their balance. The processing and the storage of fats and oils is very important, because some are far less stable than others. There are three things that can affect the quality of fats and turn them bad – heat, light and oxidisation. Good fats and oils need to be stored in airtight containers, away from direct light and heat. Some fats, the least stable are polyunsaturated fats and oils are best kept in the fridge, especially in our hot climate here in Townsville, to stay fresh. Quality fats and oils will always come in a darkened glass bottle, to stop the oxidisation and to stop them going rancid.
All fats and oils are a combination of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
The most stable being the saturated fats and great sources of these are animal fats, butter and coconut oil. Saturated are the only fats we can safely bring to a high temperature for frying, baking and BBQ.
Monounsaturated include olive oil, avocado, sesame, almond, and peanut oils. Extra virgin, cold pressed are the best. These oils are perfect for drizzling over steamed veggies or salads.
Polyunsaturated, and great sources of these are fish oils and many seed oils. The thing to know about polyunsaturated oils is that they are unstable and extra care needs to be taken with their processing and storage so they don’t become rancid. Great examples are uncooked fish, wild caught sardines and anchovies are great because they are still eating a natural diet, unlike all the farmed salmon which are mostly fed on processed pellet food. Polyunsaturated include the much talked about Omega 3 and 6. In an ideal diet, a good ratio of these fats should be about 1:1, but in our modern day diet the omega 6 are often much higher, causing a dangerous imbalance.
Examples of the Omega 3 are flaxseed and uncooked fish oils, along with nuts and seeds.
Omega 6 are vegetable and seed oils. Trans-fats, are mainly found in margarines, processed baked foods such as biscuits and donuts, take away foods and cheaply processed oils often sold in clear plastic bottles. These should be avoided. They have been highly processed and hydrogenated, this process uses heavy metals and high heat to give them better shelf life.
Include all kinds of fat in your diet and moderate amounts of fats will help you eat less overall, as fat is very satiating making us feel full for longer and help balance blood sugar.
It is interesting to note, that our ancestors all ate diets with ten or more times the amount of fat that we do today, yet they were not fat!
Last but not least, fat tastes good, so don’t be afraid to use butter, stop consuming cheap vegetable oils and replace them with nourishing high quality oils, nuts, seeds and animal products and eat them as nature intended, less processed and not low fat!