This topic is going to help you gain a better understanding of fats and what we should be eating, versus what we must try and avoid. It would also be a great idea for you to read about protein, carbs and energy balance to give you a full foundation overview of the effects nutrition has on your body. Luckily, I’ve covered these topics for you already – just click the relevant link above to be taken though to the blog post.
Over the years there has been all sorts of ‘wishy-washy’ assumptions about fats, one minute fats are good for you, the next they’re bad (depending on which newspaper or study you read). I’m here to set the record straight and talk you through whether fats are in fact really good or bad for you.
I believe it was around 1827 (plus or minus a few years)… that fats were first recognised as an important dietary nutrient, alongside protein and carbohydrates. What I’m trying to get at is that it took some time to understand, but now we have a greater understanding of fats and how they can really benefit us nutritionally.
Fat can be split up into 3 different types:
- Saturated; Fats that come from animals (meat & dairy), or from tropical oils like coconut and palm.
- Monounsaturated; Avocados, peanuts & cashews, or found in organic spread form (check label for high oleic), tree nuts (brazil, almond, walnuts etc…) and a variety of oils (olive, canola, peanut, sunflower & sesame oil)
- Polyunsaturated; split into two separate groups:
- Omega 3 – Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring & fresh tuna NOT CANNED), seeds (flaxseeds, sunflower and pumpkin) and free range eggs…
- Omega 6 – most seed oils, mentioned above.
This is where most people get confused about saturated fats, having its own group and unsaturated fats having 2 groups. They are in 3 separate groups due to their different bond structure, which tells us how they are built and determines what jobs they will executing.
I think where people really get lost, is they believe unsaturated fats (monounsaturated / polyunsaturated) are the only healthy fats ‘you can have’.
Let’s take it back at bit… well a lot… 100,000 years ago we didn’t have the luxury of picking and choosing the fats we could eat, we hunted and ate off the land. We survived on whatever we could get our hands on, and there wasn’t a supermarket around the corner. Instead we ate a varied range of different fats, mostly depending on the season and where we lived; e.g. wild game – big & small, plants, milk, blubber and fish. All different variations of both saturated and unsaturated food (unprocessed).
Evidence suggests having a better balance of these fats will maintain a healthy, strong body, in a number of different ways:
- Immunity: Aid white blood cells in destroying viruses, infections, bacteria and fungi, or any other threats to the body.
- Hormones: Assist in hormone production, in return, improving body composition and the forming of our cells. For example; increasing testosterone levels – helping to repair tissue, preserving muscles (yes ladies need a little testosterone too – just not as much as us guys!!) Don’t worry though – your body will figure out how much you need, and what you do not.
- Liver health: Both saturated and unsaturated fats have been shown to protect the liver from alcohol and medications, so get some steak’s in you before going out on the town and have some eggs in the morning – great hangover cure right there, you’re welcome!
- Healthy brain: Your brain is mainly made up of fats, so any sort of natural fats should help with neurological function, helping your body to react better, to building muscle, thinking sharper as well as appropriate signals for metabolic function.
- Absorption: Help with absorption of vitamins and minerals, such as; A & D
- Appetite: Fats help to slow down the absorption of food keeping you fuller for longer, and because of the increased time of digestion – burn more calories in the process.
- Cardiovascular protection: (though there is less evidence for protecting against heart failure)
- Help prevent cancers: With a healthier operating body, you are more able to prevent illness.
- Reduce symptoms of ADHD: (physical hyperactivity or excessive restlessness) and ADD (a person shows enough symptoms of inattention but isn’t hyperactive or impulsive).
Omega 3 & 6
Depending on the method of farming nowadays, Omega 6 will be much higher than Omega 3 in most foods, instead of an equal balance, as it should be. This problem is formed in the soil, which becomes less nutritionally dense (over cropping) than before. As well as the food that is fed to our livestock is richer in a corn substance (higher Omega 6) diet. With all this change in the soil and animals eating differently, most food will be more abundant in Omega 6 rather than Omega 3.
There is still hope with the smaller farms out there using older, more natural methods of feed for their animals and growing their crops.
Why is this a problem?
Getting the balance right.
Omega 3 & 6 normally work as a team. Omega 3 is an anti-inflammatory and Omega 6 is an inflammatory, normally the ratio should be at least 1:1, but nowadays it has been proven to be more like 16:1 or higher in Omega 6, which will throw the body off balance.
When the body is ‘out of whack’ a range of problems will most likely catch up in the form of Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes, Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and may contribute to many types of cancers.
I am not someone who wants to promote pill-popping and buying lots of expensive products, but honestly if you aren’t a fan of fish, or able to include organic salmon into your diet on a daily basis (like the rest of us) I would strongly suggest supplementing in Omega 3 – in the form of fish oils or fungi capsule.
So let’s jump in which fats aren’t good for you.
Just to make you aware before reading any further, these ‘bad fats’ cause minimal issues in a small amounts, especially when you introduce a balances with the good fats.
Any sort of manmade fats like Trans or Hydrogenated fats will be bad for you, these are used mainly in processed and artificial foods including margarine, cooking oils, microwaved foods and junk foods.
It’s only when consuming a large amount of processed, artificially created foods – daily that you will see these issues, so try and avoid them as much as you can and get more of the good stuff!
Trans fats and Hydrogenated fats are linked to some of these problems:
- Raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, but also lower good (HDL) cholesterol levels.
- Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Trans fats have been shown to decrease the body’s ability to produce natural anti- inflammatory hormones.
- Especially in children having a diet full of these manmade fats can lessen the amount of good fats, vital for human growth such as the brain. (We all want smart children, so let’s help them get smarter).
- Also due to the body not getting the right nutrition, you will face decreased testosterone, abnormal sperm production (men), prostate disease (men), obesity, immune system depression, and diabetes.
*Safety note – before taking anything I have said on-board, if you fall into any of the below categories, please talk with your local GP or specialist first:
- If you’re taking blood thinners
- Have high blood pressure
- Have heart rhythm disturbances
- You’re scheduled for surgery or in the immediate future
- Have any bleeding disorders
Right, Let’s sum this bad boy up shall we…
- The aim of this blog is to give you a better understanding of fats and hopefully you will have enough information to take action in the future.
- This is just about fats, I would advise to read about protein, carbs and energy balance – as well get your body up and running with a good nutrition foundation.
- Try your best to get more of a balance, but still have fun and have a cheeky slice of cake and that ‘cheat day’ every now and then.
- Don’t be scared of saturated fats.
- Try to avoid the man-made fats as much as possible, but don’t turn it into a ‘cult’.
- I am not someone who condones taking lots of supplements, but I take a supplement of Omega 3 in – the form of fish oils daily because I know it’s worth taking, I will leave that one with you to think about.
- Consult a Doctor, if needed.
- Still have some fun and don’t be a robot (a running theme in all my blog posts!)
- Exercise when you can!
- Don’t forget to exercise!
- Please exercise!
I hope you’ve found this helpful, and now have a better understanding of fats?
As always give me a shout if you need any help, or have any questions.