This week, I am hoping to dispel a myth that is preventing people from looking and feeling their best - the myth that fat has to be avoided for people to stay lean and healthy.
Fat comes in different guises and whilst there are some that you should avoid like the plague, others are integral to health and optimal body composition.
Here are my top tips regarding fat intake:
1) Avoid trans fats (not saturated fats)
Obvious but worth a mention. Trans and hydrogenated fats are poison. They have no place in our diet and should be avoided at all costs. Where are they found? Cakes, snacks, biscuits, crisps, chips and margarine.
What is a hydrogenated fat? An oil that has had hydrogen gas bubbled through it (hydrogenation) making a solid from a liquid. Yuck.
This alters its chemical structure, turning it into a toxin that our body cannot assimilate or process.
2) Cook with a mixture of saturated and mono-saturated fat.
People typically think that is better to use polyunsaturated fats (oils) to cook with as they are healthier alternatives to saturated fat (butter or coconut oil).
Used cold in dressings, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil gets my vote. However, cooking is a different matter.
Firstly, cooking with extra virgin olive oil is comparable to cleaning your car with Evian i.e. a big fat waste (had to slip one pun in there).
Secondly, heat. In the words of L'Oreal, here comes the science...
Look at the structure of saturated and polyunsaturated fats. What is the difference? You will notice that the saturated has no 'free' links/bonds but the polyunsaturated has several.
That is why saturated fat is solid at room temperature and polyunsaturated oils are liquid even in the fridge. Mono-unsaturated has one free bond hence the mono.
Those free links mean that when oil is heated, free radicals are produced. Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals that damage cells, destroy nutrients and increase the risk of disease (cancer and heart disease primarily). This is another reason to avoid hydrogenated fat.
Use coconut oil or a mixture of butter and olive oil to cook as these choices are stable and less prone to oxidative damage.
3) Ensure adequate omega 3 intake
Omega 3's come in 3 main forms. ALA, DHA and EPA. These are 'essential' fats because we cannot make them ourselves and have to get them from our diet.
Why do we want Omega 3's in our diet?
• They make cell membranes more fluid so they can communicate better with one another.
• They allow neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine in more easily (better mood).
• They are anti-inflammatory (inflammation is a key factor in degenerative diseases including Alzheimers and heart disease)
• They support circulation
• They thin the blood (think aspirin minus the side effects).
• They improve insulin sensitivity (sugar into muscle cells not fat cells).
• They help with fat loss and appetite control
What are the best sources?
• Walnuts - ALA.
• Flaxseed - ALA (not liquid as it has a tendency to go rancid very quickly so stick to husk).
• Oily fish (wild salmon, mackerel, sardines) EPA/DHA.
• Fish oil (make sure they are cold pressed) EPA/DHA.
4) Include saturated fat in your diet
Many people are staunchly opposed to saturated fat. While I don't advocate high amounts for everyone, they have a part to play (approx. 30-60% of your fat intake) for the following reasons:
• They stimulate hormone production
• They contribute to healthy cell membranes.
• They contribute towards healthy skin and hair.
• Organic butter is a rich source of iodine (essential for thyroid function).
• Organic butter is rich in Vitamin A (immunity/vision) and contains E (antioxidant), D (immunity/cell health) and K (bone density) plus CLA (anti cancer properties).
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