While the words “healthy” and “fat” might not seem like they should go together, turns out, they do!
Fats tend to be quite misunderstood as a food group, so we’re here to clear the air. These are the three fats you should eat, and the one you should avoid like the plague…
1. Monounsaturated fat.
These delicious fats are found in olives (and olive oil), avocados, almonds, peanuts and macadamias (so pretty much all the yum stuff!). And, consuming them has been linked to a load of health benefits, such as a lower rate of heart disease.
Just be cautious when cooking with these oils as they can become unstable and possibly toxic if heated above 200–215 degrees Celsius. By keeping them below this temp, or just drizzling olive oil over your salad, you’ll be totally safe.
Our nutritionist Liv eats monounsaturated fats daily. “Almost every meal I eat is drizzled with a good quality extra virgin olive oil, and I love adding avocado to everything. But, I generally try not to heat these kinds of fats and oils – instead I use saturated fats like coconut oil, butter or ghee.”
2. Saturated fat.
This is our favourite type of fat, found in coconut oil, butter, meat and eggs. It’s packed with health benefits too – boosting your immune system and cells function, and a recent study even found that saturated fat was inversely linked to the risk of stroke!
Both Sarah and Liv eat mostly saturated fats! As Sarah explains, “Saturated fat is actually the healthiest, safest and, in fact, the least “fattening” (if you’re not eating a sugar and carb-heavy diet while also eating fat)”. Bring on the butter!
3. Polyunsaturated fat.
We have to admit, we’re a bit wary of this one. There are two main types of this fat – omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish and chia seeds, which get a big thumbs up from us, and omega-6 fatty acids which are found in nutrient-dense Brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds. While omega-6 is still essential to brain function and bone health, too much can lead to inflammation. In a perfect world, a healthy consumption of these fatty acids should be in a ratio of around 1:1 (omega-6:omega-3), but as there is a bucketload of omega-6 found in vegetable oils and processed foods, many people often throw this ratio out of whack – as much as 16:1!
In his book Eat Real Food, our mate David Gillespie explains, that serious problems can occur if this ratio is thrown out. “We only need a maximum of 3 per cent (and perhaps as little as 1 per cent) of the calories we consume to be made up of these essential fatty acids… If we push out the balance between them or have too many of them in total, we start to encounter serious problems.”
Don’t stress though, if you swap out your vegetable oils for olive or coconut oil and reduce your processed foods by JERF-ing, it’s pretty simple to keep this ratio at a healthy level.
Plus, one to avoid…
Trans fats are created when polyunsaturated fats are damaged when heated and they’ve been linked to a number of health issues, including an increased risk of cancer. Add to that they’re found mostly in processed foods, and it’s no surprise that we avoid these at all cost. Luckily, once you choose to just eat real food, you can say goodbye to this kind of fat!
“This is one of the few things that the health industry has no disagreement on – trans fats deserve no place in your diet”, says Liv.