Updated: Jun 13, 2019
This post explains why we need fats in our diet, which are the ones to include, and which ones to leave out. I will also discuss why you should avoid low fat processed foods.
We need the right type of fat for brain function, hormone production, for energy, to help control inflammation, support cell growth. Fats help protect your organs and your body to keep warm, and are also necessary for the absorption of some nutrients.
Fatty acids are the building blocks of the fat in our bodies, and in the food we eat. During digestion, the body breaks down fats into fatty acids, which can then be absorbed into the blood. There are 2 types of fatty acids that cannot be made in the body, and so it is essential that we get these fats through our diet. They are called Omega 6 and Omega 3. These fatty acids have different roles within our body, and as such are needed in a specific ratio.
Omega 6: omega 6 is found, for example, in seeds, nuts, vegetable oils, meat, dairy, and in some processed food. It causes inflammation within the body, which is needed sometimes, in short bursts.
Omega 3: omega 3 is found in oily fish, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and walnuts. It is anti-inflammatory.
It is much easier to get omega 6 into your diet than omega 3, and If there is an imbalance of Omega 6 : Omega 3, there will be a risk of low-grade inflammation around the body.
This can result in many diseases. For example, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Cardiovascular problems. Therefore, we are encouraged, for example, to eat oily fish 5 times per week, or to sprinkle a tbs of flax or pumpkin seeds on our cereal in the morning. If these foods are not ones that you consume, it is worth considering a good quality supplement.
Many of the problems with oils and fats in the diet stem from the way they are obtained, treated and used. Oils, such as sunflower and vegetable oil, are extracted using toxic solvents, that are then removed (but not completely). Also some vegetable oils release toxic chemicals when heated, which are related to illnesses such as heart disease and dementia.
I would recommend using the oils which can be extracted with very little processing.
● Olive oil
● Coconut oil
● Avocado oil
● Flaxseed oil (store in the fridge/freezer)
Low Fat Foods
Over the years we have been advised to reduce saturated fats in our diet (for example, found in cream, cheese, butter, and fatty meat), to improve our health. Supermarket shelves are crammed full of low fat foods, to help us control our weight. But they don’t necessarily have the desired effect.
This is because to make a food ‘low fat’, the structure of the oil has been changed to make it more appropriate for the processed food. Also, the amount of sugar in the product has been increased to make it more palatable.
These changes to the food product can have detrimental effects on our body:
● We digest the food more quickly, leaving us feeling hungry
● It can lead to our blood sugar rising and falling quickly, leaving us feeling tired
● We can have more sugar cravings
● We aren’t getting the appropriate fats needed to absorb some of the nutrients we need
● These refined products are increasing the amount of inflammation in our body, which can lead to chronic disease.
My advice is that if you want to eat those foods, eat the ‘full fat’ version, but have it in a smaller amount, and eat it less often.
I hope you now have an understanding of which fats you should be eating and why. And which to avoid.