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Is it time to rethink fat?

Editorial by Daily Mirror

Eating fat doesn’t make us gain fat, and low-fat diets being superior is not based on scientific evidence, say experts

For years, the accepted wisdom was that eating fat was diet enemy number one.

The message was spread far and wide — with the connection to clogged arteries apparently clear-cut.
Dietitians focused on calorie intake instead, recommending a daily allowance that meant fat could only be eaten in restricted amounts. Then along came Atkins to turn everything upside down. The diet’s premise was simple: restrict carbohydrates and fill up on fats to shed extra pounds.

Followers noticed that eating fat and protein-rich foods was quite filling, and that, yes, weight did seem to drop off.
But not only was it unsustainable long term, people found their breath started to smell as ketosis — caused by the body burning stored fats for energy — kicked in.

So the Atkins Diet lost its lustre, but other diets relying more heavily on fats emerged to take its place. Today, the low-carb, highfat ketogenic diet, for example, is popular.

And nutritionists no longer prescribe diets low in calories but are more likely to suggest foods high in nutrients in a balanced diet.

So which fats are good, which are bad — and which, if any, should we avoid?

Which fats should we call the ‘good’ fats?

There are three chemical structures of fat: saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated. Traditionally, saturated fats have always been considered to be “bad”, while poly or mono were recommended.

In reality, those distinctions are more blurred. “No fats in nature are solely one type or the other,”

explains Dr Stephanie Moore, nutritional therapist and author of Why Eating Less And Exercising More Makes You Fat. “Meat and pork fat is largely monounsaturated, but then so is olive oil. Many regard the former unhealthy and the latter as healthy. The reality is there aren’t any ‘good’ or ‘bad’ fats.”

So which ones should we eat?

Moore encourages choice based on how fat has been processed. She suggests you look for something that hasn’t been bleached, homogenised or man-made, ruling out sunflower, rapeseed oils and margarines. This advice is echoed by nutritional therapist Eve Kalinik, who adds: “We tend to fall short of omega-3 essential fatty acids which we can’t produce in the body. They can be found in oily fish such as wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, organic eggs, and in plant-based sources such as flax and chia seeds. You should try to balance these omega 3-rich foods with fats found in avocados, cold- pressed oils, olives, nuts and seeds.”

Cooking fats

Plenty of misinformation surrounds which fats may or may not be good for health when heated. Kalinik advises opting for fats that are “solid at room temperature as they have a higher smoke point which means they don’t produce some of the free radicals generated by heating coldpressed oils. That said, all oils are affected by heat so try not to get too stressed about this. Olive oil, for example, has lots of great benefits — even when it’s heated,” she added.

Moore adds the focus should be on the balance between fats, proteins and nutrient and fibre-rich vegetables, rather than on how much is eaten, as fats tend to satisfy appetite and make you less likely to overeat.

Fat for weight loss

“Fat is incredibly satiating, so you are less likely to fill up with additional calories that can impact weight. Also, fat has a role to play in supporting hormones that help to manage metabolism and weight,” says Kalinik.

Moore adds that it is the combination between sugar and fat that is addictive and will lead to weight gain: “It will leave you hungry and is bad for you, causing insulin levels to spike,” she says.

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