Eating the right type of fat is vital to your health. In fact, certain types of fat can actually help reduce your risk of heart disease, help you lose weight, help in the absorption of certain vitamins, keep your skin and hair healthy, improve your immunity, boost your physical well-being and for our kids they are a vital source of energy and necessary for mental and physical development.
We live in a food crazed culture – constantly surrounded by high fat, high sugar and highly processed food. There’s lots of confusion surrounding fat in terms of what and how much should we eat. With so much packaged or convenient foods at our finger tips it’s important to learn which foods are the better choice.
Limit your intake of these fats:
Saturated fat is sometimes referred to as ‘bad’ fat because this type of fat has been linked with the cause of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Scientific studies suggest that a high saturated fat intake can increase your cholesterol levels which, in turn, increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. With heart disease still the number 1 killer in the country, reducing your intake of this kind of fat is a great way of improving your long term health.
Saturated fat, as a general rule, comes from animal based products; meat, chicken and dairy. However, like all rules there are always exceptions. Coconut milk and coconut cream are plant based yet they are high in saturated fat and fish are animals yet contain low levels of saturated fat. Saturated fat must be labeled on packaged food in the nutrition information panel, so you’ll know if a particular food contains it. Here are a few ways you can reduce your saturated fat intake:
- cut the visible fat off meat (lamb, beef, pork, chicken etc) before cooking
- choose leaner cuts of meats (heart smart, premium, breast versus thigh etc)
- choose low fat or skim milk
- choose low fat or skim yoghurts
- choose lite or reduce fat cheeses (even though the fat content is reduced in lite cheese, its still a high fat food, so eat it in moderation)
- limit your intake of cream and butter (in Australia, margarine has very little saturated and trans fats and is a good alternative to butter, I prefer butter but only ever eat it in small amounts)
- limit your intake of processed foods such as cakes, biscuits, chips, chocolate, creamy sauces, dips, ice cream, pastries, cream, cream cheese and creamy-based desserts
Avoid the temptation to buy the low fat versions of the products listed in the final point above. This is because manufacturers take out the fat, but in order for it to taste, feel and look as good as the original product they fill it with gels, thickeners, stabilisers and other additives. Now there’s nothing wrong with most of the additives in our foods, in small amounts, but they’re not nutrients. Fat is a nutrient, so I’d rather eat the full fat version only occasionally and in small amounts.
I buy low fat milk and cheese because these products have the fat taken out and generally nothing added back in. Always check the label for the ingredients list to find out how ‘natural’ your food really is.
Happily eat these fats:
Healthy fats are mono and poly-unsaturated fats and as a general rule they come from plant based sources. The exception is that fish and kangaroo are a good source of healthy fats and coconut products are generally high in saturated fat, like I mentioned above.
In particular, omega 3s, which are essential fats, are important in our diet and should be eaten as often as possible. Here are a few ways to increase your intake of healthy fats, omega 3 included:
- avocados – spread on toast or wholemeal crackers or tossed through a salad or pasta dish
- nuts – snack on raw, unsalted nuts such as cashews, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, macadamias etc
- seeds – linseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin and chia seeds are fantastic sprinkled over your breakfast cereal or muesli
- fish – tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines are the best sources of healthy fats but other types of fish are good too. Including fish into your diet, about 1-2 serves a week is a great way of reducing your saturated fat intake and ensuring a good serve of omega 3s. Try this salmon recipe: Sesame crusted salmon with avocado salad
- vegetable oils – olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil and canola oil are all good sources of healthy fats. I use olive oil when roasting vegetables, for making pesto and dressing salads
Check out this article: 6 Ways to Include More Omega 3s in Your Diet
Remember that although some fats are healthy, all fats are high in energy and need to be moderated if you are trying to lose weight. Weight loss advice is best from a nutritionist or dietitian and should be tailored to suit your lifestyle.
Note from MoM: Thanks again Kate Freeman for your insightful article on Good Fat versus Bad. I’ve certainly learnt a couple of new tips tonight (although I wish I’d read this before my scoop of mango icecream with fresh coconut on top)!
What do you do to make sure you’re limiting bad fats and including good fats in you and your family’s diets? Let us know you’re reading by posting a comment … it’s good to know you’re all out there reading.