The facts about fat
With such a bad reputation, many people incorrectly assume that fat needs to be avoided at all costs. We’ve decided to take a look at what this food group actually does, and why it’s essential to staying fit and healthy.
Firstly, there are a number of essential vitamins that our body cannot absorb without the presence of fat. These include vitamin A, S, E and K. Fat also helps to transport nutrients across cell membranes and is an excellent energy source.
So, if fats are vital for a healthy diet, which ones should we be consuming?
Saturated fats: animal fats, dairy and oils such as coconut and palm.
Despite the bad reputation, saturated fats are the safest fat to cook with, as they are highly resistance to rancidity (many fats turn rancid, unstable and carcinogenic when heated). Saturated fats however, are linked to high blood cholesterol levels, which can cause narrowing of arteries and an increase risk of blockage.
Monounsaturated Fats: olive and canola oils and fats found in nuts and avocados.
Oils high in monounsaturated fats are rich in vitamin E and can help reduce high cholesterol levels when consumed in moderation. This healthy source of fat can also add flavor, help satiate your appetite and regulate blood sugar levels. Whilst monounsaturated fats are fine for light cooking, they can be unstable under heat.
Polyunsaturated Fats: vegetable oils, sunflower and fish fats.
Although theses fats are presented as healthy, only a small few are. Polyunsaturated oils are often highly processed which means they are quick to turn rancid when exposed to heat or light. Their lengthy extraction process also removes many of the fat’s vitamins. On a positive note, the benefits polyunsaturated fats found in oily fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines include: reduced blood pressure, improved blood vessel elasticity and reduced inflammation.
Trans Fat: margarine, hydrogenated vegetable oils and the fat used in commercial deep-frying.
These highly processed fats should be avoided. Trans fats are incredible carcinogenic and are facing scrutiny worldwide for their damaging effects. It increases risk of heart disease (the leading cause of death in Australia) by increasing cholesterol. Whilst trans fats occur naturally in small amounts in beef, veal and lamb, they are more often produced artificially and found in deep-fried foods.