Fat has been the enemy for as long as we can remember, it was the first thing people cut from their diets to lose weight. Now, fat is associated with many positive messages, with some people telling us that we should be eating a lot more fat. So, is this true? Do we still go for a low fat diet, or do we start having a lot of fat?
This is something I've heard many people ask about. We've shifted from one opinion to another, and as always, non-experts blow it out of proportion.
Let me first start off by saying that our bodies do need fat. We couldn't function as we should if we didn't eat fat, but it is the type of fat and how much we eat of it, what really matters.
Recently, research has told us that saturated fat isn't as bad for us as once thought. Unfortunately, this has been misinterpreted by non-professionals, and now they are telling people that they are allowed to indulge in foods high in saturated fat - like butter, coconut oil, bacon, cheese, etc. Why is it unfortunate? Because if something isn't as bad for us, that doesn't mean it's good for us either. Anything in large amounts is going to be 'bad' for us, especially saturated fat. Why? Because it is important to understand that saturated fat is still A FAT, it still has the most amount of calories per gram compared to other nutrients, and it will cause weight gain.
Now we reach the middle man: weight gain. Weight gain, partnered with an unhealthy lifestyle (no fruit & veg, no exercise), is the bad guy, because that is still the key reason for many health problems we currently face, such as heart disease, non-insulin-dependent Diabetes, liver and kidney diseases, and some cancers.
So although saturated fat isn’t directly impacting on health problems, it is influencing them indirectly through unhealthy weight gain. This figure can help you better understand what I am saying:
As I first said, fat is definitely important for us to consume, but we don’t need to increase our intake of it dramatically. Out of our normal daily food intake, 30% of that should come from fat. So, if you are already having nuts for snacks, putting cheese in your sandwiches/salads, having avocado in wraps, adding oil to your cooking – you are already having enough fat, and the good types as well. Instead of filling up your 30% with the saturated types listed above, have foods like nuts, seeds, olive oil, olives, avocado, and oily fish (e.g. salmon) – because these foods are proven to better our health.
The bottom line is, fat is needed for good health, but trust me, we are already eating enough of it, so we definitely don’t need to try to eat more. Going for the good fat sources I listed will ensure your body is getting all the healthy fatty acids it needs. But remember, we only need them to account for 30% of our food intake.
So, as always, it’s about eating mindfully – eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Include all foods in your diet, but in moderation... And never believe information on the Internet if that information isn’t conveyed by a professional in that field.
Yours in health,
Joyce Haddad, Director of A Dietitian's Mission, is an Adelaide based Dietitian/Nutritionist and Master Personal Trainer with a passion for health and wellbeing. ADM aims to help the public make informed and realistic nutritional choices and ensure everyone has a healthy relationship with their body and with food.