For several years now, many health professionals have preached that a low-fat diet is the key to losing weight, managing cholesterol, and preventing health problems. However, the real significance is in the types of fat you eat, rather than just the amount of fat. Science has demonstrated that unfavourable fats increase cholesterol and your risk of certain diseases, whilst good fats protect your heart and support general health. As a matter of fact, good fats—such as omega-3 fats—are vital for both physical and emotional health.
A visit to your local supermarket will confirm our obsession with low-fat foods. The shelves are packed with apparently healthy snack options, such as fat-free ice cream, low-fat lollies, cookies and cakes. However, in spite of this increase in low-fat snack options, obesity rates have increased exponentially. Evidently, low-fat foods and diets are not the answer to weight loss and good health.
Despite what we have been told, fat is not always a bad thing. Bad fats, such as trans and saturated fats, are the ones responsible for health concerns such as weight gain and heart disease. On the other hand, good fats such as mono-unsaturated, poly-unsaturated, and omega-3s contribute to weight management, cardiovascular health, mental clarity, energy and mood.
The solution is not to eliminate fats from our diet, but to make healthier choices by replacing unfavourable fats with good ones which promote wellness.
There are 4 primary types of fat:
1. Monounsaturated fats (good fats, e.g. olive oil, sesame oil, avocados, nuts);
2. Polyunsaturated fats (good fats, e.g. sunflower/sesame/pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, salmon, sardines)
3. Trans fats (bad fats, e.g. commercially-baked pastries, packaged snack food, stick margarine, fried foods)
4. Saturated fats (bad fats, e.g. high-fat cuts of meat, whole-fat dairy products, butter, ice cream, palm oil).
A good fat can actually become a bad fat if it is exposed to heat, light or oxygen, causing it to become rancid. Polyunsaturated fats are most fragile, and should be refrigerated and stored in a dark glass container.