Fat has gained itself a negative reputation, people tend to avoid fat as they associate it with well, getting ‘fat’, but it’s not as simple as that as there are different types of fat, yes some are bad but there are also good fats! Fats, that we as human being need in our bodies to maintain a healthy body!
Let’s start with the bad fat, of which there are two: Trans fat and saturated fat.
Trans fats are without a doubt the worst type of fat you can have, it’s the fat that you find in those foods you know you really shouldn’t be eating (i.e. junk food), but why is this particular type of fat so bad for us? Well trans fat has been shown to raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels, cause heart disease, strokes and type 2 diabetes!
There are literally no health benefits to trans fat at all so they should really be avoided altogether.
Although still on our list of ‘bad’ fats, saturated fat is not as bad as trans fat, and seeing as saturated fat can occur in a lot of everyday foods which also contain other positive nutrients (meats and dairy) it can be hard to avoid.
If you lead a generally active and healthy lifestyle then there is no reason to completely avoid saturated fat, you should just limit the amount you consume. Similarly if you are not leading a healthy lifestyle, are already overweight and eat lots on junk food then you should try avoiding saturated fat as much as possible as there are still risks associated with cardiovascular disease.
According to the World Health Organisation and Food and Agriculture Organisation ‘The traditional target is to restrict the intake of saturated fatty acids to less than 10% of daily energy intake and less than 7% for high-risk groups.’
Monounsaturated fat is found in foods such as nuts and various plant oils (olive oil, canola oil, etc.) and will most often end up comprising the majority of your total fat intake.
This type of fat is generally considered a good thing as unlike the ‘bad fats’, monounsaturated fat can actually help lower your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, which means a balanced diet containing a healthy level of monounsaturated fat may help to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Polyunsaturated fat contains something called ‘essential fatty acids’. That word ‘essential’ should be a big clue in helping us realise that polyunsaturated fat is in fact good for us! The two types of essential fatty acids are Omega-6 and Omega-3.
Omega-6 is found in a lot of every day foods such as oils and nuts so is generally abundant in most people’s diets anyway, if anything sometimes people are consuming too much. Omega-3 which is found in found in fish and fish oils, is the opposite and you’ll find that most people’s diets are lacking in this particular essential fatty acid. The reason why Omega-3 is so good for us is that it improves your body’s ability to do things such as build muscle, lose fat, live, function, prevent diseases, etc. Basically a lot of stuff that the body needs!
Although Omega-3 and Omega-6 are a ‘good fat’ it is still important to get our quantities correct, typically we should be having twice as much Omega-3 as Omega-6 (a ratio of 2:1), if not then you still increase the risk for a variety of diseases and health issues.
The most important thing to realise is that everything we eat should be part of a balanced diet, and your fat intake shouldn’t surpass any more than 30% of your overall energy intake for the day. As well as eating healthy it is also important to incorporate regular exercise into our lifestyles.