The right kind of fats are ESSENTIAL for your health. They boost your brain function, mood, and are necessary for creating healthy hormones. Many of you are looking to drop fat, improve your weight management or just get fitter and have more energy. Some of you might even be postnatal or pre / post menopausal and wanting to balance out hormone levels. Ironically, without the right kind of fat in your diet, you will never really feel satisfied and consequently will not be able to lose fat either.
Our sex (and stress) hormones are made from fat and we need to have enough fat in our diet to supply the building blocks for healthy hormonal balance. So, diets that drop calorie intake by cutting out fat are a recipe for disaster.
You have to bear with me a little on this topic. Of all of the food groups, fats get a little “scientific” when we explain them; but hold on and it will make sense.
You may have heard about “good” and “bad” fats. Well, we like to call them less helpful and more helpful – because that’s simply what they are; more or less helpful in getting you to where you want to be with your body. With this food focus we want you to be focussing on getting much more good fats, than bad fats.
The good news is that it isn’t hard to decipher between them as most of the less helpful fats are created from industrial food processing, AND, if you stick mostly to unprocessed foods, it’s difficult to get excessive amount of these less helpful fats. You just make sure you eat more ‘whole’ unprocessed foods and you’re ‘good’.
As, with anything ‘Beattitude’, we like to explain a little further and pass on the knowledge to you.
So, here we go…
Fats are essential to your body to help boost brain function, boost mood, normalise your hormonal system and help absorption of vital vitamins and minerals such as A, D and E. To understand quickly we need to first talk about fat structure.
Fatty acids (fats) are just long chains of hydrocarbon molecules joined together. The molecules look like peas holding hands to create a sort of caterpillar looking shape. The way these peas hold hands and the shape of the caterpillar is a huge part to how the fat behaves and whether it is a ‘helpful’ or ‘less helpful’ fat.
The first thing you have to be aware of it that you either have a ‘cis’ or ‘trans’ fat. Cis is good, trans not so good.
Virtually all naturally occurring unsaturated long-chain fatty acids have the cis configuration, which looks kinda like a caterpillar with a kink in it. Like I said, Cis is good.
When a food is processed, or altered through heat or cooking, trans fats can be created as a by-product of the fatty acid saturation. What happens is the kink in the caterpillar is then straightened out. Which is not helpful to us. Since trans fats do not kink, or fold upon themselves, like cis fats do, they pack into the cell membrane very tightly and studies suggest that this means an increased risk for coronary heart disease, cancer, and other chronic disease, possibly because of their potential to manipulate membrane fluidity. This is why we want to try and clean up our diet of these types of fats.
When a “healthy” fat has been taken and processed and turned into a trans fat, it usually turns a liquid fat into a harder version of that fat. So foods that are rich in trans fats are foods like French fries, or anything deep fried, chocolate bars, sweets, margarine, mayonnaise, most salad dressings, crisps, biscuits, roasted nuts and so on. Companies process fats in this way to improve the taste and experience when eating them, and to increase the shelf life of the product or to even make it easier to spread and use. So, ‘hydrogenation’ or processing is good for a company’s bottom line, but not so good for our health and body.
So, the more processed the fat the less they contain helpful fats. So, when we are looking for the more helpful fats, it’s pretty easy! Tip #1; just avoid the man-made ones that are spreadable, deep fried or have been made to be easier to spread.
The second thing to know is that we then have saturated fats, unsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
You will find polyunsaturated fats in foods such as fish, nuts, avocado. From these types of food, you can see that these fats are unprocessed, which mean “healthy fats”. Although this is the case, what happens when you have a deep fried cod, or have roasted nuts? What would they then be classed as? Well, they have been hydrogenised by the cooking process, which turn them more into trans fats. If the fish had been cooked in coconut oil, rather than deep fried in cooking oil, the change would be different and that fish would still be a “healthy” fat. So, be careful to look at how a healthy food has been cooked. Just because you are eating cod doesn’t necessarily mean it’s high in good fats. The cooking process is HUGELY important.
So, now that we are beginning to get the hang of this, let’s take a look at unsaturated and saturated fats.
Saturated fats, along with trans fats, are sometimes touted as being “less than helpful” as they can raise bad cholesterol levels. Yes they can when they are consumed in excessive amounts. As is the case with anything, it is about balance. But there are good saturated fats such as coconut oil, and there are other saturated fats such as stearic acid which is found in cocoa butter and beef that may actually lower LDL levels helping cholesterol.
So, when it comes to your fats, it is key to look at getting a diet that is much less processed.
A few tips to make sure you manage this:
- When it comes to using oils, look for cold compress oils, that come in dark glass containers. Avoid light colour oils in see through containers. Adding these to salads instead of mayonnaise can really help the balance between these helpful and less helpful fats. Walnut and sesame seed oils can be really tastey to salads.
- Avoid processed, deep fried foods such as crisps, battered foods, roasted nuts.
- Look at how you cook your foods, or when you are out, ask for your foods to be steamed, or poached instead of deep fried.
- Eat less processed foods, instead eat avocados, raw nuts and pick better choices of oil.
- Start using coconut oil
- Balance out your protein sources, don’t always eat red meats, have a good balance between fish, game, and red meat.
You do know these things. You know that less processed foods are better, deep fried isn’t as helpful. So, without being confused, trust what you know and start working towards a better and more balanced food intake.
This weeks food focus is to try and get your diet a little more balanced in terms of your fat sources, cooking sources and the oils that you use, as well as what you use on salads.
Here are a few salad dressing ideas for you:
Lemon, avocado sauce
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/2 – 1 lemon depending on the sharpness you prefer
- 1/2 avocado
- 5 tbsp bio yoghurt
- Black pepper to taste
Avocado vinegar sauce
- 1/2 avocado
- 3tbsp apple cider vinegar