What Are Good Fats?

Lots of people have been asking us about fats in food when doing the 5 2 diet and whether they should be avoided. There are good fats and there are bad fats, and for many years now, there has been quite a bit of controversy over fats in our diet and whether or not they should be avoided. So you may be asking now what are good fats? Let’s first take a quick look at the history of studies made on fats in our diet.

  • In the 1980’s there were studies that showed that fat was linked to cancer and obesity. This set off the fat free diet craze. However, as years go by and people started avoiding fats in their diets, there was still no slowing down of the prevalence of obesity, heart disease or cancer in the first world countries.
  • In 2010, more studies revealed that unsaturated fats actually help with reducing risk of systemic diseases. In addition, some studies also noted that the removal of fat from your diet may result in various unhealthy body side effects as fat was required by the body and brain to function properly. This lead to the end of the no fat or low fat fad diets era and opened the doors to including essential or good fats in our diet.

As we become more educated about the foods we eat and health diseases are on the rise, we see more and more people aiming to become healthier through diet and exercise. Further research was made on the possible goodness of fats and how they may actually be essential to our health. Similar to other nutrients, the body needs a daily consumption of fats so that it will function effectively. Fats are needed for the preservation of cells in our body and it is also used for conveying the signals through the nerves. Therefore, avoiding fat in your diet only leads to your body being deprived of it which then causes other health issues.

Not all fats are good and not all fats are bad. Here we have a look at the breakdown of the different types of fats in your diet, in particular the good fats, to help you make more effective food choices for your diet.

What are good fats?

Good fats offer a wide array of health advantages. The good fats are better known as unsaturated fats and come in two forms: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

Monounsaturated fats are essential for lowering cholesterol and have been known to benefit the heart. Monounsaturated fats are also good source of vitamin E and anti-oxidant. Foods that contain monounsaturated fats are oils, such as olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil and peanut oil. Monounsaturated fats can also be found in avocados, nuts and seeds.

Polyunsaturated fats are essential for the general health and well being of the eyes, heart, joints and brain. They can be found in seafood, namely oily fishes, such as salmon, trout and tuna. These good fats are also found in plant oils such as vegetable oil, corn oil, sunflower oil and soybean oil.

There are 2 types of polyunsaturated fats: Omega-3 and Omega-6.

  • Omega-3 fats play an important role in metabolism. Omega-3 also helps with brain and eye development in babies as well as boost children’s learning development and strengthen their immune system.
    In adults, omega-3 helps with inflammation of joints (rheumatoid arthritis, pain and stiffness) and also assists in the protection against heart diseases and cognitive decline as we age.Omega-3 is typically found in salmon and tuna, flax seeds and nuts, green leafy vegetables and soy foods.
  • Omega-6 fats assist in reducing cell damage and promoting cell repair during inflammations. It also plays a role in protecting our body against heart disease and reducing the risk of cancer.Omega-6 is found in vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, canola oil and soy oils.

What Are Bad Fats?

On the contrary to the good fats, there are also bad fats which are saturated fats and trans fat.

Saturated fats are responsible for increasing levels of bad cholesterol in our bodies leading to heart diseases through the hardening of our arteries and have no health benefits.

Foods containing saturated fats are animal products (e.g. Meat fat, poultry, sausages), seafood, full cream milk and dairy (including eggs). Saturated fats can be found also in plant produces like coconut oil and palm kernel.

Trans fats is considered the worst fat out of all fats. Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been processed to taste good and extend shelf life of foods. As a result they have the same properties and behave like saturated fats. Trans fats not only increases the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in our bodies but also decrease the levels of good HDL cholesterol. This is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular diseases in the 21st century. Trans fats have also been linked to increasing the risk of stroke and diabetes.

Trans fats are found in commercially prepared foods such as biscuits and cakes. It is also present in take away foods (especially fried foods), ready made meals, snacks, energy bars,, cream and some types of margarine.

Bad fats are solid at room temperature. Make sure you read the fat content on the nutrition labels of packaged foods that you buy. Trans fats are also more difficult for the body to get rid of in comparison to saturated fats so should be avoided.

Five Good Fats Tips

  • Substitute oils used for cooking to olive or canola oil
  • Choose low fat dairy products
  • Reduce the intake of butter and creams, choose monounsaturated or polyunsaturated margarine
  • Choose lean meat or trim off excess fats from meat before cooking and most importantly;
  • Avoid or reduce the amount of take out foods, premade or packaged foods and fried foods (Yes! This includes your favorite chips and ice-cream!) that you have.

Good Fats And Your Diet

All fats contain the same amount of calories per gram (9 calories per gram). People, however, should be more aware of the different types of fats present in their food. Maintaining weight and being healthy doesn’t just come down to how much food (calories) you eat and how much energy you burn during exercise, but also depends on the quality of the nutrients in your foods. Eating foods with 90 calories of unsaturated fats can impact your health positively while eating 90 calories of saturated fats can be more detrimental to your health. The common mistake people make is trying to avoid all fats in their diets, but we now know that some fats actually assist with metabolism and you just need to make smarter choices in the foods you eat. So the key note is to have a balanced diet which includes your good fats.

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