Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Facts About Fats: Good vs Bad & Why We All Need Fat in our Diet (Infographic)

The Facts About Fats: Good vs Bad

Good vs Bad & Why We All Need Fat in our Diet
Are you confused about whether fats, in any form, should form part of a healthy diet? Don't worry, you are not alone! You’re probably so used to reading and hearing that fat is the enemy, that you may be surprised to learn that actually we all do need some fat in our diet. However, it can be very confusing, for example:
  • what exactly are good fats vs bad fats?
  • how much fat we should eat as part of a normal healthy diet or if we want to lose weight?
  • which types of fats should we avoid at all costs and which fats should we eat more of?
  • what about avoiding dietary cholesterol too?

Why We All Need Some Fat in Our diet:

  1. to help provide energy, healthy brain function & cell growth
  2. as a source of some essential fats that our bodies cannot make 
  3. to help our bodies absorb and use fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). 
However, research has shown that cutting down on saturated fat and replacing it with everyday foods that contain more unsaturated fat can improve our both our heart health and brain health, and even help keep us genetically younger

The Facts About Fats: Good vs Bad & Why We All Need Fat in our Diet (Infographic)

Monounsaturated Fats (MUFAs):

These are also mostly liquid at room temperature and made from vegetable sources.
Foods rich in mono unsaturated fats include:

  • Nuts, flaxseed
  • Olive Oil, Rapeseed Oil, Canola oil and spreads based on these
  • Avocado
Research has shown that eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats improves blood serum cholesterol levels, which can lower your risk of heart disease. Some studies have also linked MUFAs with improved insulin levels and blood sugar control, important in the prevention and management of diabetes.

Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAs):

In pure form, these are usually liquid at room temperature and are made from vegetable sources. They can also be found abundantly in certain types of fish. Foods which are a rich source of polyunsaturated fats include:

  • Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, trout, pilchards, sardines, herring, anchovies, which are rich Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Corn, safflower and sunflower oils & spreads
  • Sunflower and other edible seeds
Research has shown that eating a diet rich in polyunsaturated fats improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. Again, studies have also linked PUFAs with helping to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Saturated Fats:

These are usually solid at room temperature and often from animal sources. Foods high in saturated fats include:

  • Fatty meat and meat products (Burgers, sausages, salami)
  • Dairy fats (full cream milk, cheese, full fat yogurt, full fat crème fresh and cream)
  • Butter, block margarine, ghee, lard
  • Palm and coconut oils
  • Processed foods and baked goods made from the above (pies, pasties, cakes, biscuits, pastries, puddings, Indian sweets, pies, and pasties)
There have been numerous research studies into the risks associated with a diet high in saturated fats. A recent (June 2015) Cochrane Review of 15 studies into The Effect Of Cutting Down On The Saturated Fat We Eat concluded that changing the type of fat we eat, replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats, seems to protect us better, reducing our risk of heart and vascular problems. We should aim to replace most of the saturated fats in our diet with healthier unsaturated fats, and saturated fats should only be eaten in moderation.

Trans Fats (Partially Hydrogenated):

Whilst trans fats can occur naturally in some diary and meat whole foods in very small quantities, they are more usually formed during food processing when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil (a process called hydrogenation) to make it more solid. This is why they may be described as partially hydrogenated fats on food labels. Foods high in trans fats include:

  • Takeaway and fast food
  • Deep fried foods
  • Processed snacks, cakes and desserts such as microwave popcorn, fried crisps and chips, crackers, biscuits, cookies, cakes, pastries, pizza, pies and other baked goods
  • Coffee creamer
  • Some hard vegetable shortenings and stick margarines
The scientific evidence against processed trans fats (partially hydrogenated fats) for good health is so over-whelming that the advice is to eliminate these completely from your diet.

What About Cholesterol?

There is an enduring but mistaken myth that dietary cholesterol is one of the causes of raised bad (LDL) blood cholesterol.  In the UK, government guidelines do not advocate any restriction on dietary cholesterol unless you are managing the inherited cholesterol condition, familial hypercholesterolaemia (discover more about FH at HEARTUK – the Cholesterol charity here). Previously, the USA had advised that everyone should keep dietary cholesterol to less than 300mg per day.  However, as there is no clear scientific link between the cholesterol people eat and blood cholesterol levels, in Feb 2015 this advice was rescinded (link with focus now on reducing saturated fats and trans fats instead, which are to blame for high cholesterol. 

See Tip 4 - Eat Eggs & Shrimps (& more) below for foods that you can enjoy that you may have mistakenly believed you shouldn't! You can also discover more about fabulous foods that can help lower cholesterol here.

Managing Your Total Fat & Lowering Your Saturated Fat Intake

Research has shown that reducing saturated fat intake can bring about a reduction in harmful LDL-cholesterol. A healthy fat intake is based on your energy needs and activity levels. An average man requires around 2,500 calories (kcals) per day and average woman 2,000 calories (kcals) per day. No more than 30% of these calories should come from fat. For most men that means not more than 95g of fat per day and for women no more than 70g fat. Please note, calorie needs may be more or less, depending on your weight and personal activity level.
Guidance in the UK & USA recommends lowering saturated fat intake to less than 10% of energy intake. If you need to lose weight, you may need to reduce your fat intake further, since all sources of fat are a concentrated source of calories (1g of fat equates to around 9 kcals). 
Table Showing Recommended Daily Calories, Fat & Saturated Fat

If you are on a reduced-calorie diet for weight-loss, your recommended fat intake will adjust down in proportion to the reduced calorie intake. The table below details the amounts suggested for either a 1500kcal or 1200kcal daily intake, which is often the recommended calorie in-take for a weight-loss diet. 
Table Showing Diet Daily Calories, Fat & Saturated Fat

4 Top Tips on Eating Fats as Part of a Healthy Diet

  1. Read Labels! Be aware that trans-fats/partially hydrogenated fats can crop up in the most unexpected places. Watch out for them in processed foods such as shop-bought baked goods including cakes, biscuits, cookies & bars, peanut butter and fried foods. It used to be that baking fats, margarine and spreads contained partially hydrogenated fats but in response to health concerns, most manufacturers no longer include them, however always check the label! 
  2. Eat a Mediterranean Diet! The Mediterranean Diet is not a low fat diet per se, but the fat you do eat comes mainly from plants and cold-water fish rather than from saturated sources like high-fat dairy products, fatty meats or processed foods. You can find much more information on the delicious whole foods in the Mediterranean Diet here and below.
  3. Eat Low-Fat Not No-Fat! Our bodies need some fat in order absorb and use fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) found naturally in some foods. So enjoy some delicious healthy unsaturated fats alongside naturally nutritious, whole foods. Sprinkle nuts or seeds over salads, use olive, rapeseed (canola) and sunflower oils, choose unsalted, natural nut butters and low-fat (not fat-free) milk and cheeses.
  4. Eat Eggs & Shrimps (& more)! Unless following specific medical advice, don’t worry about, or avoid, foods that are high in dietary cholesterol as long as they are also low in saturated fat. There are many such foods to enjoy such as whole eggs (yolks and/or whites) and seafood including shrimp, prawns, crab, lobster & squid. Lean offal meat is such as liver & kidney is also good, although limit liver or liver pâté to a once a week treat in order to avoid consuming too much Vitamin A (and avoid if pregnant or planning a pregnancy). 

Help in Following the Mediterranean Diet

Sometime it can be hard to translate the good intentions to follow a Mediterranean-style Diet into everyday eating and meals the whole family will enjoy. If you feel like that then please do take a look my Easy Low Fat and Low Cholesterol Recipe Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, which really helps with this dilemma and provided over 100 delicious, low saturated fat recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's available: 

    As a Paperback & eBook from Amazon:

    As an eBook from:

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