SingleMum.com.au Expert Opinion Panel
Dan Davis – Nutritional Therapist
Fat Chance –
The truth, the facts & the fears about fat
Dan Davis, Nutritional Therapist, | 18 May 2013
From the U.K., our nutrition expert Dan Davis questions
what all the fat fuss is about……
Its a word that when it comes to food, strikes fear into anyone trying to regulate their weight. And its not really our fault. A few decades ago food manufacturers caught on to some misguided information that foods had to be low in fat or fat free to be healthy and beneficial to re-correct increasingly poor health statistics. So processed “healthy” food brands hit our supermarket shelves and that side of the food industry soared in profit margins. Low fat ready meals, fat free yoghurts, fat free salad dressings, all sold to people in hope they are forming a healthy diet. The fat fear hysteria is generally out of control.
The truth is, fat should play a part in our diet. Not all fats are bad, in fact some forms of it are essential for a healthy body. Our outer layer of fat for example keeps our internal organs warm. Fats are an important component in hormone production and function, so especially important in female health. Many of the important vitamins and minerals we need to sustain a healthy body are ‘fat soluble’ which means, they can only be transported into our digestive system in fat molecules. A decrease in fat consumption could mean a deficiency in absorption of minerals like calcium, magnesium and boron, and vitamins A, D and E. So in turn, a fat deficiency can lead to low bone density and osteoporosis.
Every cell in our body has a membrane encasing it. These membranes are predominantly made of fat. The cells are told what to do by the ‘messengers’ of the body, hormones. So the membranes need to be healthy and ‘fluid’ to receive these messages in order to carry out there function properly. Hormones actually attach to the membranes of the cells in order to pass on their instructions. If either the cell or the hormone has a faulty membrane the wrong instructions may be given and a cell deformity occur. Or if a pre-cancerous cell is given the instruction to reproduce, this is where a cancer may form and spread.
Eating fat does not necessarily make you unhealthy, obviously eating it too excess can be detrimental to health. Excess fat will be stored in our adipose layer causing obesity and the liver can be damaged by having to deal with high amounts consumed, but fat is an important calorie source. If you consider the Eskimo races diets are around 60% fat and the incidence of heart disease among them is very low, you can start to see the myths created by food processors and ‘experts’ may have been highly misleading.
Lets look at the types of fat our foods contain…
Found in meats, dairy and oils such as coconut oil and palm oil, these are the most demonised fat sources. It is these types that are stripped from foods to make the ‘fat free’ versions of them. They can, if eaten in excess, be hazardous to health and should be eaten in moderation, there is no doubt about that what so ever. High levels of saturated fat can raise cholesterol especially the harmful LDL type cholesterol. So as a rule, keep your saturated fat levels moderate by trimming excess visible fat from meats before cooking.
These are the true fat demons!! They are found in a lot of processed, junk and takeaway foods as well as margarine. These fats were developed by adding hydrogen to oils for use in cooking, increasing shelf life to processed food products and making them seen fresher for longer. You can see them on food labels often described as partially hydrogenated oils. These have been linked to not only raising bad LDL cholesterol but also decreasing the good guys, the HDL cholesterol. So a double attack on heart health. Thankfully more and more restrictions are being put in place over the use of trans fats, manufacturers have to declare their use and many food regulators are banning them all together. The rule here is to avoid at all costs.
So many studies have found that these healthy fats are linked to fantastic rises in good HDL cholesterol, greatly improving heart health. Other health benefits are believed to be reduced risks of stroke and certain cancers, relief of rheumatoid arthritis and an aid to reducing body fat. These should be included in the diet every day, and great sources include avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds and their oils and butters.
These are the omega’s 3,6 and 9 that are so highly regarded as huge influences on good health. They attach to saturated fats, bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the body to clear them out. They are believed to help reduce blood pressure and some studies indicate they may be beneficial in reducing hyperactivity in ADHD sufferers. To get adequate amounts of these in your daily diet add things such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Almonds, walnuts, avocado, natural peanut butter and olive oil. More foods are coming on to the market now with huge marketing potential as super foods such as krill oil and chia seeds, but these are very expensive. Although they are good sources of polyunsaturates, you can get adequate dietary intake from much cheaper sources.
The thing about low fat and fat free foods is, when the fat is removed it is replaced with other ingredients such as starches, sugars, gums and many other additives. Many of these are detrimental to health in many other ways. So in fact a meal you think is beneficial to your health in one way may actually be damaging it in another.
Remember, eating fats isn’t the health issue. Being fat is.
About the author…
Dan Davis is a Nutritional Therapist based in London and Kent in the UK and a member of the SingleMum.com.au Expert Panel. To learn more about Dan, please go to his Biography page here
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