Fats: are they good or bad?
In the 1980’s, scientists concluded fat was bad for us and we should be reducing it in our diets to combat the growing obesity issues. This message was taken up by manufacturers and ‘Fat Free’ products hit the shelf.
What great marketing! Sticking the words fat free on a product. I’ll admit it, I’ve walked passed two of the same products and I’ve grabbed the fat free one. I don’t want to be fat, so ‘fat free’ is the best option! Right? Studying nutrition has given me a greater understanding to the age-old question: to fat, or not to fat? Maybe not the age-old question but it’s a good one.
Education is the key to finding out this answer. We all need food to survive but we cannot all obtain a university education to know what is good for us. General education about what we are putting into our bodies and the effects needs to be something that is introduced into our education system.
We need to ask questions. Like, have you ever wondered what is put into products to replace the flavour that fat gives when it’s removed? Often it’s sugar and we know sugar is bad for us right? Does this mean we should always go for the fall fat choice? Not at all, it depends on many factors. Ask yourself this: by getting the full fat pack of biscuits would you only have one, and if it was the fat-free packet, would you have three or more? Then I’d suggest the fall fat one is the better option for overall calories and fat consumption. With that in mind, I always tend to go for the lower fat cheese due to the amount I use. I eat a lot of cheese regardless of the fat content. This is just one example.
In 2015 SCAN (The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition) released a report recommending the general population reduce their free sugar (added sugar, including fruit juices) intake to 5% for their daily intake. This was big news in the media. So, is it sugar that’s making us fat? Does this mean we can have as much fat as we want? Get that butter on the toast!
Since the release of this report we have seen an increased use of ‘healthy’ marketed fats being used by online personalities. I do not think I have ever seen a post where Joe Wicks doesn’t throw a huge table-spoon of coconut oil into a pan. Due to its high saturated fat content, many health organisations have advised limiting the amount of coconut oil used regularly. Regardless of the good properties it is high in saturated fatty acids. Remember also, not all products are the same standard. Regardless of the type of oil you use in your cooking, choose the best… I’m a fan of olive oil and will opt for extra virgin olive oil.
Fats are essential for humans, they create insulation for our vital organs, start chemical reactions to promote growth and immune functions. They also support proteins and other aspects of basic metabolism.
There is no argument that we need polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), especially Omega-3 and Omega-6, as they are essential fatty acids because the body cannot synthesize them, which means we need to get them from our diet. Omega-6 is found in vegetable Oils, Grape Seed Oil, Sunflower Oil, Corn Oil, Wheat Germ Oil, Soybean Oil, and Margarine. Studies have found that Western diets have a higher intake of omega-6 which is proven to increase the risk of diabetes and obesity. This doesn’t mean you need to cut it out of your diet completely. One thing we need to learn as a society is moderation. Omega-3 is greatly known to many for being found in oily fish and studies have found that an intake of fish oil rich in omega-3 protects against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Both are required in our diets just in a balance of 5:1 to 10:1 which is viewed as a suitable ratio. (Introduction to Human Nutrition, 2009)
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) are found in both plant and animal products. It has been suggested that the effects on cardio heart disease depends on the source on MUFA. Many who opt for a plant based diet, argue that it is fats from animal products that cause disease in humans.
Saturated fatty acids (SFA) are found in found in butter, cheese, red meat, and other animal-based foods can be the bad boy of the group. The general population are over consuming SAF by 1%. This might not sound like a lot, right? Well, studies suggest that decreasing SAF intake by 1% has shown to decrease total blood cholesterol.
Fat is back on the trend but remember moderation, and that cutting out any macronutrient can be detrimental to your health.
Measure out your oil rather than throwing a huge blob in the pan. Eat your veggies, carbs and protein. A great resource is the Eat Well Plate which visually breaks down the dietary recommended values.
Food Standards Agency