Fat: friend not foe

When we were told a number of decades ago that fat was the enemy and eating it would make us larger, we removed it from our diet and replaced it with low-fat versions like margarine, reduced-fat biscuits, yoghurts, meats and ready meals.

But fat has an important function in our diet. As well as being a carrier for fat-soluble vitamins, it also contains essential fatty acids needed for healthy bones, muscles and immune system. Fat is slow to digest, so can keep us fuller for longer, as can protein and fibre-rich foods like vegetables and wholegrain carbs.

So when we began to eat less fat we also got more hungry – and what did we turn to to fill us up? CARBS.  But not the wholegrain varieties like oats, rye and wholemeal. No, the refined and over-processed types like white bread, white rice, pasta, cakes, biscuits and pastries. Which are also laden with sugar, calories and poor nutrition as they lack fibre… so we needed more to fill us up.

It now all makes sense.

Are you eating the right fats?

Maybe now is the time to review your diet. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Look at the amount of fat you eat and the type. Make sure you consume plenty of non-saturated fat such as olive and rapeseed oil, and eat plenty of nuts, seeds and avocados.
  • Try eggs for breakfast for a filling and protein-rich start to the day.
  • Limit the amount of low fat or ‘diet’ products you consume, instead eat the full-fat versions but have smaller portions.

A word of caution about our new found love of coconut oil.  Unlike olive oil that has about 18% saturated fat, coconut oil has a whopping 92% saturated fat. It’s this type of fat that can increase your levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), your weight and potentially influence your heart health.

Watch the amount of processed food and ready meals you eat; they are often high in fat, sugar and salt that may not only increase your risk of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes, but could make you put on weight if you eat them regularly.

With the right type of eating, you’ll notice weight slowly drops off which will encourage you to get more active, in turn aiding weight loss and building muscle.

So think of fat as your friend, not your enemy. Choosing the right ones could be a path to a happier and healthier life…

Susan Hart

About Susan Hart

I am a Nottingham-based nutritional coach, advising clients about the benefits of healthy eating. This is delivered on an individual, group or organisational wide basis. For clients wishing to stay healthy and possibly lose weight I offer vegan and vegetarian cookery classes. I also deliver wellbeing workshops at Maggie’s Cancer Support Centre at the City Hospital in Nottingham. As a vegetarian chef I also write a monthly restaurant review for the Nottingham Post, and regularly write for the West Bridgford Wire. I just love talking about and eating food! Visit my website www.nutrition-coach.co.uk to find out more.

  • Jason Ryer

    Hi Susan, great article – though I’m wondering about the recommendations to avoid saturated fats. More recently I’ve heard a lot about the benefits of saturated fats. In fact, Dr Mercola wrote about this in 2011 and has plenty of evidence to support the benefits of healthy saturated fats: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/09/01/enjoy-saturated-fats-theyre-good-for-you.aspx

    • susan hart

      Hi Jason. Its all about balance and moderation. Saturated fat as part of a balanced diet is fine, but we tend to overeat this type of fat. Coconut oil is so prominent in social media that many people use it for everything and then ‘balance isn’t maintained because we forget about olive oil etc. I hope that explains where I’m coming from