Facts on fats – setting the record straight

Recently there has been a lot of criticism about recommending a low fat diet, with many saying that fat has been wrongly accused – even saturated fat, the one that we have been told increases heart disease  risk.

It’s little wonder we are more confused than ever.

Let’s address some common myths about fat.

 Saturated fat is bad and unsaturated fat is good.  Busted! 

The problem with this common nutrition advice is that it oversimplifies a complex idea.

There are several different types of saturated fat, some with a neutral or positive effect on cholesterol, others with a negative effect.

There are also several different types of unsaturated fats, many with a neutral or positive effect on cholesterol and some that promote chronic inflammation, a known factor in heart disease.

This myth also forgets to mention trans fats. Trans fats are mainly found in processed foods and oil that is heated too many times. Researchers agree that these are unhealthy and should be avoided.

Bottom line: Fats should be eaten in the most natural form possible. For example, try avocado, nuts, seeds, oily fish and olive, macadamia or avocado oil, rather than processed foods and canola and other  seed oils or table spreads.

Low fat products are loaded with added sugar.  Plausible. This can sometimes be true.

When fat is removed from processed foods, extra sugar often needs to be added to ensure the product is still tasty. Low fat products that often contain added sugar include flavoured yoghurts, sauces,

mayonnaise and dressings, cereal, muesli bars and muffins.

Low fat foods that don’t contain more sugar than the full-fat varieties include milk, cheese, crackers and Greek (plain) yoghurt.

Bottom line: Make sure you chose mainly wholefoods over processed foods.

A diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates is healthier. Busted! This is a modern nutrition myth.

While fat does break more slowly in the body than carbohydrate and therefore keeps you feeling fuller for longer, fat also contains double the amount of energy as protein or carbohydrates! 

Also, today there tends to be an abundance of fat compared to what there was in the not-so-distant past. For example, our cows are now mainly fed on grains rather than grass and therefore our meats are  higher in fat than they were in previous centuries.

If you are eating a balanced diet, adding in extra fat such as butter or coconut oil has no proven health benefits. You should instead focus on protein, which is more important to include in our diet as we  age.

Bottom line: We all require some fat in our diet but unless you follow a strict diet you are likely to be already eating enough unless you are underweight, have lost weight without trying or have a poor  appetite.

Perhaps fat has been vilified after all!  Not all fats are equal and healthy fat can be enjoyed within a balanced diet if eaten in whole, minimally processed foods.