I think it is safe to say that there is a high level of confusion and contention around which fats are in fact good for us, and which ones we should avoid like the plague. Different camps have different opinions and a lot of information out there now challenges what we previously thought was gospel. What I base my opinion on and what I recommend to patients is based on the latest findings and research, not outdated now irrefutably proven studies which have now been shown to be highly flawed.
What am I talking about? I am talking about the low fat movement of the 80’s. Cholesterol, saturated fats and in fact, all fats, were demonised, put in the naughty corner and swapped out in favour of low fat foods, refined carbohydrates and sugary foods. Based on one study that supposedly showed a high correlation with fat and heart disease. ONE STUDY. For the following 4 decades, people adhered to low fat dairy, low fat diets and trimmed all of the fat of their meats, and butter, forget it. Margarine was the new j=kid in the block. Never mind the fact that this is how margarine is made, are you squeamish? Be prepared to NEVER want to eat margarine again…..
Margarine is made using rancid liquid vegetable oils like canola oil, it is then subject to a process called hydrogenation which is basically where oil is mixed with tiny particles of nickel, it is then subject to hydrogen gas at high temperature. Next they add in soap like emulsifiers and starch, it is squeezed, bleached from a grey colour, food colouring is added to make it yellow, and walah, margarine. GROSS. Butter contains cream, and maybe some salt. That’s it.
Let’s break it down…..Polyunsaturated fats, including Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish, nuts and seeds, nut oils and flaxseed oils. Oils should be used at room temperature and preferably not heated and used for cooking, this damages their integrity and in turn their nutritional quality.
Mono unsaturated fats such as olive oil is great, largely unprocessed and great source of good fats. Again, best consumed as a dressing or for low heat cooking.
Saturated fats such as those found in butter, meat, coconut oil and coconut products are hugely important for the body. We need fat for every cell in the body, our brain is over 60% fat, our nerves are covered in a fatty layer and we need it for energy. Fat is good. The only fat we MUST avoid is trans fats such as those found in margarine, oils used to fry chips/snacks and those found in pastries, donuts etc. These are extremely dangerous, inflammatory and cancer causing, steer clear.
When it comes to danger to our heart and cholesterol, as I mentioned in last week’s editorial, sugar is far more implicated and dangerous.
Get your fats through raw, unsalted nuts and seeds, cold pressed, virgin olive oil and coconut oils, organic grass fed butter and meat and good quality, fresh fish and seafood, chicken and free range eggs. And PLEASE do not eat margarine!
Signs you may be low in fats include dry, itchy skin, sore joints, poor memory.