In last week’s article I talked about how fat can actually help us to efficiently lose weight when eaten with or without certain macronutrients. If you missed it, catch up here. This week I hone in on fats. If you read my articles regularly, you’ll know that I often talk about how important it is to avoid fats that are considered unhealthy and focus on the healthy fats. Yes, that’s right. Healthy fats are an essential part of our diet despite what we’ve been told over and over in the past that fats are bad for our health. They have numerous benefits such as reducing inflammation inside the body, a key factor in all chronic disease, the absorption of important fat soluble nutrients, and they are the building blocks of many of our hormones, alongside many other functions. The key is to eat the right fats, always with a protein source, and avoid eating them with sugar or carbs.
I’ll briefly go over the fats that are best to avoid, some obvious, some not so.
The number one bad boy on the block is cooking oil that has been repeatedly reheated to high temperatures like the oil used in fast food joints and burger vans, otherwise known as dirty fat. This stuff raises levels of a protein which releases a toxic chemical called acrolein – a known carcinogen linked to atherosclerosis and heart disease. Aside from the rather nasty health effects, you guessed it, dirty fat will not help you lose weight but I’m sure you already guessed that. For more info, read my article here.
Trans fatty acids (e.g hydrogenated vegetable oil) that are found in heated/processed foods such as baked goods, crackers, cakes, snacks, pizzas, microwave meals, fried foods, spreads and margarine – we all know these are bad for us and the bottom line is to just avoid them. Aside from helping us to pile on the pounds, they can cause brain inflammation, mess with our hormones and neurotransmitters, reduce our healthy HDL cholesterol, ruin our memories and reduce serotonin leading to depression..and they help us to pile on the pounds – not really worth it…
Omega 6 is found in hemp seed, black currant and evening primrose oil which can have some positive health benefits but when too much Omega 6 is consumed from processed foods, corn and safflower oils, conventionally raised meat and vegetable or soy-based oils, this promotes inflammation in the body and brain. Inflammation inside the body can actually over-activate our hunger hormones causing us to eat more and put on weight!
Generally with fats you have to be real careful when heating them up. Add the heat, and you can change the structure, which changes the impact on the body. It’s all about the smoke point of the fat and how much it can tolerate heat. The safe ones to use are coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee and grass-fed butter but still try not to go mad with the heat. These have a higher smoke point and can withstand higher temperatures, and no, you won’t get fat, unless you’re eating processed foods and sugar along with them!
On to the good stuff….
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are liquid at room temperature and should not ever be heated because they oxidise and become damaging to the body and are associated with unhealthy, small particle-sized LDL cholesterol and heart disease. That’s not to say we shouldn’t consume them. The essential PUFAs are Omega 3 and 6. Omega 3 is found in wild-caught oily fish (SMASH: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring have the least toxins), walnuts (shaped like a brain – wonder why?!), grass-fed meats, chia, sunflower, flax and sesame seeds. Omega 3 consists of EPA and DHA which reduce inflammation (remember hunger and weight gain!) and support cognition. Omega 3s have a positive effect on cholesterol and raise our HDL levels.
Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) are usually liquid at room temperature and turn solid when chilled. MUFAs are considered stable and can be used for low-heat cooking (not so easy!). It is pretty much common knowledge how beneficial to our health olives and olive oil are. Cold-pressed, organic extra virgin olive oil is generally better to use on your salads or in smoothies. I don’t recommend cooking with it. Heat could damage the oil, even though some in the nutrition world seems to think that the high levels of polyphenols and tocopherols it contains, (in quality olive oil that is – there’s a lot of rubbish out there, unfortunately) actually protect the oil from the heat as well as its chemical structure.
Healthy MUFAs (all are not equal) are found in foods such as avocados, peanut butter, macadamia, and their oils, fish such as mackerel, nuts such as hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, seeds, lard, red meat (grass-fed, organic of course!), butter (again!) and tallow. They are high in vitamin E and antioxidants and are known to be anti-inflammatory so can protect the brain and reduce the risk of diabetes, the precursor to ‘diabetes type 3’, Alzheimer’s disease. These fats can also help lower unhealthy cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease and have been linked to weight loss! Nutrients always work better in synergy so MUFAs as a whole, made up of a number of fatty acids, have additional health benefits such as inducing weight loss, they provide protection against heart disease and have shown to increase insulin sensitivity, and control or even prevent diabetes.
Saturated fats (SFAs) found in butter, dairy, meats, nuts, coconut oil, ghee, are solid at room temperature. Saturated fat is vital to the body for the structure of cells and tissues and cell communication. It reduces inflammation and strengthens immunity for brain protection and gives our brains the fuel to perform optimally. Having all of these benefits doesn’t mean we can now go eat SFAs by the truckload! SFAs when eaten in conjunction with simple, sugary carbs, cause weight gain and raise unhealthy cholesterol increasing the risk of heart disease. If you do increase SFAs in your diet do cut the sugar and simple carbs and always avoid the saturated fats in processed foods.
So that’s pretty much my roundup on fats good and bad. This doesn’t mean to say you should guzzle fats down at every opportunity BUT I hope it makes you realise just what an important part the healthy ones are for a healthy diet and, that they shouldn’t be forgotten about. Remember, try not to eat fats on their own or with much carb, always with a healthy protein source for the best weight loss results.
If you’re still unsure or still on the fence when it comes to fat, perhaps you need to take a look at your beliefs behind avoiding fat to stay slim. As everyone knows, fats have been demonised for years and this information, over time, could have quite easily become a deep-rooted belief. With the right methods, any beliefs that are blocking your way to health, weight loss and happiness can be changed, which of course, will impact your thoughts, actions and behaviours. If you’re interested in changing the way you think about food, you want some motivation to follow an eating regime, to exercise more or just want to cut out the crap, read more about the subconscious reprogramming process PSYCH-K® here. If you’d like to try a session do get in touch here. I wish you the best of luck on your health and weight loss journey.