So what’s a “good” fat? What’s a “bad” fat? This kind of labelling is not only simplistic, it is wrong.
Saturated fat, for example, found in most animal products, has been linked to high cholesterol and heart failure. However, it is also used to form sex and adrenal hormones, Vitamin D and bile, and a certain amount can be needed for good health. A major cause of too much cholesterol in the body – a problem largely blamed on saturated fat – is due to overconsumption. Many people eat foods high in saturated fat multiple times every single day. Does that sound like something that would have a reasonable, healthy outcome?
On the other end of the spectrum are the essential fatty acids – EFAs. Sometimes I think this is the closest advertising will ever come to claiming we have found a magic pill. We hear a lot about Omega 3s, but in fact, there’s a whole host of essential fatty acids. EPA can help lower cholesterol. DHA is essential to brain development and growth; it boosts the immune system, aids in combating arthritis, depression, prostate problems and migraines. EFAs also support thyroid function and promote healthy skin, hair and nails. And many people will be surprised to find out that all green – chlorophyll-rich – foods contain ALA, another essential fatty acid that could help combat high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma and breast cancer. You see, there’s a reason I keep going on about greens, greens and more greens!
Fish has commonly been known as the best source of omega 3s. However, due to the high mercury content of wild-caught fish as well as overfishing, this is not a viable long-term option. In addition, I was shocked to discover that because of the feed given to farmed fish, it is no longer a good source of Omega 3 – quite the opposite! However, EFAs can be found in flax and hemp oil, chia seeds (a more recent addition to the Superfood family), pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
Essential Fatty Acids are Polysaturated fats. Unlike their saturated counterparts, they remain liquid even in the refrigerator and can easily go rancid when exposed to light and air. Make sure to buy them cold-pressed in dark glass bottles from a trusted brand.
Ideally, what we are looking to achieve is a balance between all of these fats. Consuming too much of one will not – as the marketing of omega 3s would like to have us believe – create optimum health.
In the end, the most important piece of this puzzle is quantity. Fats become unhealthy when we consume them in excess – even the so-called “good” fats. The liver plays a major part in fat metabolism, and so can become sluggish from overwork.
Changing up the kinds and amounts of fats we ingest are the perfect example of how making little alterations can create a huge ripple effect on our wellbeing. How about starting with just one meal? Using a great olive oil and fresh lemon juice on your salad every Sunday evening instead of pre-packaged dressing can make an enormous difference in how you’ll start off your week.
I cannot say how much fat is the right amount as it varies from person to person -- though going fat-free is far from the one-way ticket to health that we are promised in all those 0% ads. However, if you do want to reduce the amount of fat in your diet, be sure to do so slowly to avoid cravings. And, as always, make sure that what you do decide to put into your body is the best quality that you can afford. Because when it comes to fats, quality is as important as quantity.
P.S. What is the difference between a Superfood and a super food? Find out in this week’s Friday Night Dinner Blog.
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