Fat plays a vital role in the body and without sufficient amounts your brain couldn’t function properly, your immune system would struggle, your energy would be low and your ability to absorb fat soluble vitamins would be severely impaired.
The problem is that fat has been demonised in recent years for its role in heart disease. However, more recent studies have shown that this connection is not entirely true.
There are different types of fat
- Monounsaturated fats i.e. olive oil
- Polyunsaturated fats, split in to omega 3 (i.e. salmon) & omega 6 (i.e. sunflower seeds)
- Saturated fats i.e. butter
- Trans fats, these are usually processed, artificial fats i.e. margarine
The healthier fats come from the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated groups. They are typically liquid at room temperature. The essential fats cannot be made by the body and so we need to eat them to get the benefits. Both omega 3 & 6 in the polyunsaturated group are essential fats. We do also need some saturated fats. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature. Trans fats have absolutely no place in the diet and should be avoided completely. Trans fats are often found in processed foods such as cakes and biscuits. They have been classified as carcinogenic and are banned in many countries.
The 12 benefits of fat
- Some fat cannot be made by the body so are classified as essential. They play a vital role in the body.
- We need fat for energy, fat provides 9 calories per gram whereas carbohydrates and protein contain 4 calories per gram.
- Fat protects our organs (but we only need a thin layer)
- To absorb certain nutrients, such as fat soluble vitamins
- For healthy skin and hair (dry skin is a sign of essential fats deficiency)
- To make essential hormones
- To build cell membranes
- For brain function – your brain is 60% fat
- For the immune system, essential fats have an anti-inflammatory role
- Essential fats keep cholesterol levels under control and blood less sticky
- Essential fats prevent and fight depression and dementia
- Fats help you to feel full and stop you from overeating
The essential fats
Both omega 6 and omega 3 are essential fats. Ideally our body prefers a ratio of 1:1 but due to our modern diets some of us are consuming a ratio of up to 17:1 – that’s 17 times the amount of omega 6 to omega 3. The problem with this, is that omega 3 essential fatty acids play an important anti-inflammatory role in the body and omega 6 a pro-inflammatory role. It is not good to be on the side of inflammation!
How to get the right fat into your diet?
Generally speaking, the UK population eats a little too much saturated fat. Try to reduce the amount of animal produce you consume.
You need to up your intake of omega 3 and reduce your intake of omega 6. Here’s how:
- Ditch the vegetable oils (sunflower oil is incredibly high in omega 6)
- Avoid crisps, shop bought salad dressings, muffins & cakes (basically anything processed is going to be full of heated vegetable & corn oils)
- Increase intake of omega 3 foods (i.e. oily fish – eat twice a week)
- Use omega 3 enriched eggs
- Include flaxseed and chia seed – a tsp a day on your breakfast or in a smoothie
- Take an omega 3 supplement – especially for children
Which foods contain which fat?
Monounsaturated fats are found in most plant and animal foods, but some foods are especially rich in them.
- Olive oil
- Macadamia nuts
These foods also contain omega-6 polyunsaturated fats.
Omega-6 fats are present in most plant and animal foods; however, vegetable oils contain the highest concentration.
Foods rich in omega-3s include:
- Chia seeds
What about coconut oil?
Coconut oil is classed as a saturated fat. However, do remember you need some saturated fat and it would be better come from a product packed full of other important nutrients. The same goes for avocado!
We have moved so far away from our natural ratio of omega 6 to 3, we do need to adjust things. Omega 3 is so important for our fight against dementia, depression, Alzheimer’s and inflammatory issues I strongly believe in using supplementation.
- Eskimo-3 Little Cubs
- Biocare Omega Berry
- Wellkid Omega 3
- Biocare Mega EPA
- Nutrigold Antarctic Krill
- Lamberts Omega 3 ultra
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