By the end of 1940s research emerged that seemed to link foods with saturated fats, like eggs and red meat, to coronary heart disease. By the 1960s saturated fats were the devil’s food, and with the birth of low fat labelled foods in the supermarkets, so began the Western world’s obsession with the idea that a low-fat diet would help us get the body we want. The truth is that in other parts of the world, fat has always been welcome at the table.
Would we be healthier and leaner if we just didn’t eat fats? Actually our bodies need fat — but more importantly, they need healthy fats. Fats are an important part of a healthy diet, providing essential fatty acids that keep our skin soft and are a great source of energising fuel.
At least 10% of our calories should come from fat. The problem is that in the typical UK diet roughly 34% to 40% of calories come from fat. Fats enhance the flavours of foods, so because they taste good and are easily available they tend to make up a large part of our diet.
What is Fat?
Fat is a rich source of energy. Fat is made up of building blocks called fatty acids and these are classified as saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated depending on their chemical structure. Some of these are essential to our diet but others can be detrimental to our health if too much is consumed. Saturated fats were considered the ‘bad boys’ of healthy eating, however, recent research has suggested that some saturated fats have other healthy properties so should still be included as part of a healthy diet but in lower amounts.
Below are some of the best. From lowering bad cholesterol and helping shed excess weight to giving you shiny hair and healthy nails, your body will reap the benefits of these healthy fats.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is great for heart health. Its high levels of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants mean that it protects your cells from damage. It also helps improve memory and cognitive function and works as an anti-inflammatory. No wonder the benefits of a Mediterranean diet are applauded.
However, you must buy extra virgin varieties of the oil and beware cheap versions – there should be a seal from the International Olive Oil Council on the label. Extra virgin olive oil is terrific for making salad dressings or drizzling over breads or cooked foods.
Avocados are one of the healthiest fruits you can eat. They’re rich in monounsaturated fats, which raise levels of good cholesterol while lowering the bad. Avocados are also packed with Vitamin E which helps boost immunity and acts as an anti-ageing nutrient for your skin.
As if that wasn’t enough they are full of healthy protein; in fact, it has more than any other fruit.
Avocados are an extremely versatile food. Alternatively, cook with avocado oil. Its mild taste won’t overpower dishes the way other oils might. It’s suitable for grilling or frying and a tasty choice to drizzle on salads, sandwiches or veggies.
Because the body isn’t capable of producing omega-3s on its own, they are considered essential. So, we must rely on omega-3 foods to supplement our diet. There are three types of “omega-3s”: ALA, DHA and EPA. DHA and EPA are the richest sources of omega-3s and found in seafood such as oily fish. The third type, ALA is found in some plant foods, including certain nuts and seeds, as well as grass-fed beef.
Good sources of omega-3s are salmon, sardines, mackerel, pilchards, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach and watercress.
Real butter is what we are talking about here not the numerous spreadable substitutes you can buy. Butter fell out of favour during the ‘war on fat’ but as the benefits of butter become more widely known it’s undergoing a comeback. The omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids found in butter help brain function and improve skin health. Butter’s also rich in fat-soluble vitamins and trace minerals. As a saturated fat it is fine to use in small amounts, but may cause problems if you eat way too much.
Today, the aroma of coconut is all around us in everything from candles to shampoo. The health properties derived from it as a food source have also been around for a long while.
Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids, which are easy for your body to digest, not readily stored by the body as fat and small in size, allowing them to infuse cells with energy almost immediately. These fatty acids also improve brain and memory function. Because coconut oil is a saturated, albeit natural fat, make sure you buy the unrefined variety ( whole coconut or extra-virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil).
With so many choices, healthy fats can easily be included in your diet.
BodyUK Can Help You Make The Right Diet Choices
Nutrition is confusing, especially when it comes to knowing what’s healthy and what’s not. There is a lot of conflicting information out there. BodyUK aim to make things simple. We’re here to help you achieve your fitness goals, whatever they may be. We offer a FREE personal training consultation to help understand what you want to achieve and how BodyUK can help you.
Alternatively, you may be interested in joining our outdoor fitness community, where you can exercise in a highly supportive group environment and receive constant support from a qualified personal trainer.
If you have any questions at all about how BodyUK could help you then why not get in touch with BodyUK Head Coach Jem, who will be happy to have a confidential discussion with you. You can email Jem firstname.lastname@example.org