Fats are commonly frowned upon in the modern diet when in fact key types are essential to healthy living, the aim is to identify between the good and bad varieties.
Essential Fats the good fats
Appropriately named, as the body cannot synthesise them of its own accord, and therefore essential that they form part of our diet. There are two primary types Omega 3 & 6. Omega 3 has been found to improve brain function and mood in addition to the key development of the eyes and brain in both foetuses and young children. The circulatory system is a key benefactor of Omega 3 fats as are the bodies hormones. Omega 3 also provides a reduction in inflammatory conditions such as eczema and arthritis. Omega 6 assists with certain skin complaints as well as aiding the hormonal processes of the body. The correct intake of Omega 3 to 6 is required in the body, the ration being 2:1, however the widespread use of sunflower oil for cooking often means that Omega 6 is prevalent in our diets whilst Omega 3 is often low as a result of the average British diet not including a recommend weekly intake of two to three portions of oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna etc.) Essential fats are referred to as “supersaturated” meaning they are both fluid and flexible whereas a saturated fat has a much more solid composition and as a result it is well documented that this can cause arterial plaque and restricted blood circulation. The lack of solidity does however mean that essential fats are vulnerable to heat and therefore it is best to avoid cooking with nut or seed oil.
Mono unsaturated fats
Mono unsaturated fats are also classified as attributing to good health in moderate amounts. Found in foods such as olives (olive oil), avocado, nuts and seeds; these fats help maintain health, supple skin and protect the arteries they are however stored as fat by the body if consumed in large quantities.
Saturated fats are the ones to avoid in the diet and can be found in fatty cuts of meat, diary products and processed foods such as pizzas, biscuits, cakes etc. The body has difficulty digesting saturated fats and as a result affect digestive transit and are easily stored as fat. Unlike the essential fats, saturated fats are pro-inflammatory and will therefore exacerbate such conditions as arthritis, asthma or eczema.
Hydrogenated & Trans Fats
Hydrogenated fats are commonly added as preservatives to foodstuffs or to harden products such as cheap margarine. They are considered to be worse to general health than saturated fats as they not only block the arteries and raise cholesterol; they also disrupt brain function by interrupting the role of the essential fats. Ideally they should be avoided at all costs and should be checked for on food packaging where possible. Trans fats are similar to hydrogenated fats and are formed as result of nut, seed and vegetable oils being used for cooking. High temperature oxidise these fats and it is advisable to use a stable oil that can withstand heat such as a medium olive oil; extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil are still as risk of being damaged by the cooking process. Ideally nut, seed and extra virgin oil are best used cold pressed as salad dressings to obtain their benefits.
What to do with fats?
AVOID saturated fat red meat (or opt for lean cuts), diary products, fried and processed foods.
AVOID hydrogenated fats check food labels carefully.
EAT oily fish (2-3 times per week) nuts and seeds
The benefits are maintaining a healthy circulatory system, and cholesterol levels as well as good memory function and mood not to mention an improvement in weight management.