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Fat for life

What is fat?

An essential part of the human diet, fat is important for good health. There are different types of fats, however some are healthier than others. 

Fat supports many important functions within the body. It provides us with omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids; it plays a role in maintaining healthy cell membranes; and maximises the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and certain antioxidants. 

It is found in a wide range of foods and can be obtained from both animal and plant sources.

With twice as many calories per gram as carbohydrates and proteins, a gram of fat contains approximately 9 calories. In comparison a gram of carbohydrate or protein provides about 4 calories.

Fat intake as low as 10% of daily calories is adequate, however most dietary guidelines recommend 25 – 35%.

Excess calories in any form can be stored as body fat. It is important that we get our “fat calories” from the most nutritious sources possible. 

Not all fats are created equal…

Saturated fat

This kind of fat is typically solid at room temperature and is known as the least healthy type of fat.

Food sources containing saturated fat:

  • All animal-derived products eg. dairy, meat, eggs.
  • Pies, pastries, biscuits, cakes
  • Solid margarine
  • Coconut oil and palm oil.

We should aim to reduce our intake of saturated fat, and make monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat sources our first option. 

Trans fats

In nature, trans fats are only found in animal products.

Thanks to “better living” and chemistry we humans have discovered how to create a synthetic version of these toxic trans fats. This is via hydrogenation – a process in which unsaturated plant oils get transformed so they behave like animal fats and are solid at room temperature.

They are extremely inflammatory and contribute to metabolic diseases such as heart attack, stroke, and diabetes; as well as other chronic diseases.

Food sources that may contain trans fat:

  • Fatty snack foods (such as potato chips, crackers)
  • Deep fried and high fat takeaway foods (such as hot chips, pizza, hamburgers)
  • Cakes and high fat muffins
  • Pastries and pies (including quiche, tarts, sausage rolls, pasties, croissants)
  • Sweet and savoury biscuits

The only safe intake of trans fats is zero!

Unsaturated fats

These are categorised as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.

Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are predominantly found in foods from plants; for example: ‘vegetable’ oils, avocados, nuts, and seeds.

These fats, when consumed in their whole food form, help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels (among other health benefits) when they replace saturated fats in the diet.

Unsaturated fats are less stable than saturated fats and are more susceptible to rancidity which causes inflammation in the body. Hence it is important to minimise your intake of processed forms such as vegetable and seed oils; and store these oils as appropriate either in a cool dark cupboard or the fridge, and in dark glass bottles. 

Polyunsaturated fats:

These fats are further divided into the essential fatty acids – omega 3 and omega 6.

Omega 3s:

Omega 3s are essential fatty acids; we can only get them from our food. They play an important role in cellular function and in maintaining heart health, brain health, kidney function, eye health, and skin health.

However, we don’t have to eat oily fish and take fish oil to reap the brain and heart health benefits provided by omega 3s.

We can get plant omega 3s (our bodies convert alpha linolenic acid (ALA) in certain plant foods to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)), from walnuts, soybeans, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, and even seaweed and algae. Other green leafy vegetables and beans also contain small amounts. 

Omega 6s:

Omega 6 fats are necessary for growth and the synthesis of hormone type compounds. 

Food sources of omega 6 fat: 
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Wheat germ
  • Sesame seeds/tahini 
  • Walnuts
  • Soybeans. 

Monounsaturated fats:

Monounsaturated fats are cardio-protective and non-essential – meaning your body can manufacture them. They increase our HDL cholesterol, commonly known as the “good” cholesterol.  

You may have heard of omega 9 fats, these are found in many nuts and seeds and are classed as monounsaturated.

Food sources of monounsaturated fat: 

  • Olive oil (preferably not heated)
  • Nuts (pistachio, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia, cashew, pecan, peanut) and the oils from these nuts
  • Avocados and avocado oil. 

The whole food way…

It is important to choose plant foods in their whole form as often as you can. 

VV Mylk’s product range provides you with a convenient and healthy way to achieve your daily intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. 

Want more omega 3 in your diet without taking supplements?

Try VV Mylk hemp, walnut or pecan mylk concentrates for a wholesome omega 3 boost on the daily. 

 

Further reading:

https://nutritionstudies.org/plant-oils-are-not-a-healthy-alternative-to-saturated-fat/

https://www.forksoverknives.com/wellness/saturated-fat-is-still-bad-for-you/

https://nutritionfoundation.org.nz/nutrition-facts/nutrients/fat

https://www.pcrm.org/news/blog/5-top-sources-heartbreaking-saturated-fat

https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/nutrition-information/omega-3

https://draxe.com/nutrition/omega-9-benefits/

 

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