There is a lot of confusion surrounding the issue of fats – we are constantly hearing about the benefits of a low-fat diet, and more recently the benefits of good fats. This article takes a look at the different types of fats we eat and helps to debunk some common myths.
Myth # 1: Fats make you fat.
The truth of the matter is that your body rarely makes fat directly from dietary fats, it actually makes fat from carbohydrates (sugars). This is why many people who try a low-fat diet have trouble keeping off the weight, as they are often high in carbohydrates such as sugar. It is better to include beneficial fats in your diet as these will help your body to regulate metabolism. This, and reducing sugar and simple carbohydrate intake in your diet, will aid in weight loss as your body will start to use up its fat reserves.
Myth # 2: Margarine is a healthier option than butter.
This is an important myth to debunk because margarine is marketed as the cholesterol-free option, being low in saturated fats and high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from the vegetables it is produced from. All of these facts are true of margarine but what they don’t tell you is that margarine is actually a trans-fatty acid (TFA).
TFAs are made when the natural structure of the fat molecule is altered. This is why margarine, which is made from liquid oils, is solidified as it undergoes a hydrogenation process. TFA is not used by the body in the same way as its natural form – studies have shown that they actually increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and decrease HDL (good) cholesterol in the body. In addition to this, TFAs cause inflammation, which can have a detrimental effect on your health. Margarine includes Proactive, Nuttlex and olive oil spreads, which are particularly high in trans fats.
Good, organic butter contains Vitamins A, E and D, as well as butyric acid which is good for your gut health. Include some in your diet in small amounts instead of margarine.
Myth # 3: Saturated fat is bad.
Saturated fat is needed in the body but in comparison to other fats, your intake should be lower. Saturated fats are needed in your diet in order for your cellular membranes to remain soft and supple. A diet that is high in polyunsaturated fat and devoid of saturated fats leads to rigid cell membranes, which can even cause hardening of the arteries.
Saturated fat from non-organic animal sources should however be avoided as this is where excess hormones and toxins are stored. Some saturated fats are beneficial for you, such as coconut oil and organic meat fats, so refer to the list below for some good fat choices.
Myth #4: Foods containing cholesterol are unhealthy.
Often when we hear the word ‘cholesterol’ we associate it with being bad for us or a sign of being unhealthy. But we actually need blood cholesterol for a number of key physiological processes.
Firstly, our bodies need cholesterol to help build the structure of cell membranes. Cholesterol is also an important ingredient in making some of our key sex hormones like oestrogen and testosterone as well as adrenal hormones, such as cortisol and androgens. We even need cholesterol so that our bodies can produce and use Vitamin D.
The key is understanding and distinguishing the good cholesterol-rich foods from the not-so-good ones. When we are looking at our health, the cholesterol-rich foods worth including in your diet include whole eggs, organic meat, shellfish, cheese, full-fat yoghurt and sardines. The foods you should avoid – especially if you are looking to lower your cholesterol levels – include fried foods, ice cream, processed foods and meats and sugary baked goods.
Myth # 5: All oils are the same.
Not all oils are manufactured the same way. If oils are heat extracted, it creates high amounts of trans-fats and even makes the oil rancid. Always make sure that you use cold-pressed oils, and organic if possible.
Canola oil should be avoided as the processing method of extraction, which involves chemical solvents, means that the oil remaining is not very healthy at all.
Try NOT to eat these oils at all…
- Margarine, Nuttlex, olive oil and plant oil-based spreads
- Non-organic excess animal fat
- Non-organic chicken skin
- Canola oil
- Deep-fried foods
- Sunflower oil
- Cooking spray oil
- Hydrogenated oils
- Vegetable oil.
The following oils should be consumed SOMETIMES…
- Organic animal fats
- Organic chicken skin
- Palm oil
- Mustard seed oil
- Peanut oil
- Grape seed oil
- Emu oil.
These oils should be consumed OFTEN, every day to maintain good health…
- Avocado oil*
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Rice bran oil
- Sesame oil
- Macadamia oil
- Flaxseed oil (unheated)*
- Linseed oil (unheated)*
- Almond oil*
- Coconut oil
- Fish oils *
- Hemp seed oil*
- Pumpkin seed oil*.
*these oils should never be used for cooking, use cold only.
Go deeper: Listen to Episode 9 of Season One of The Shift podcast – Food part 1 – what you’ve always known is a lie to learn more about how the big food groups can impact your health.
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