It is widely assumed that fats are BAD. Those who think this are mistaken. In fact there are fats that heal and fats that kill. Eating the right kind of fat is absolutely vital for staying healthy and feeling and looking great. If you are ‘fat-phobic’ you are depriving yourself of essential health-giving nutrients and increasing your risk of ill health. The same is true if you eat mainly ‘hard’ fats – that is saturated fats from dairy, meat and most margarines. You need to go out of your way to eat the right kind of fat-rich foods such as seeds, nuts and fish.
Most people in the Western world eat too much ‘killing’ saturated fats and too little ‘healing’ essential fats. Saturated fat is mainly found in animal products and is generally abundant in our diets. In small amounts it is beneficial, but in larger quantities it can cause health problems. It is usually solid at room temperature. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil and avocado oil. Monounsaturated fats can be made by the body and so are not considered essential. It is liquid at room temperature, but thickens in the fridge.
Polyunsaturated fats are predominately found in vegetables, seeds and oily fish e.g. flax/linseeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines, trout. There are two polyunsaturated fatty acids that cannot be made by the body, Linoleic acid (omega 6) and Alpha-Linolenic acid (omega 3). These two ‘essential fatty acids’ (EFA’s) are the only fats that are ‘essential’ for health. They are liquid at room temperature.
Unfortunately, most people are deficient in these essential nutrients. Saturated and monounsaturated fats are not nutrients, you do not need them – although they can be used by the body to create energy. Polyunsaturated fats are essential, the body cannot make them and it is essential that it has them. Most foods contain fats. And most foods contain a combination of the 3 different types of fats. But some foods contain a higher ratio of polyunsaturated fats to saturated fats (e.g. sunflower seeds) and vice-versa (e.g. meat).
No more than 1/3 of our fat intake should be from saturated fats and at least 1/3 should be polyunsaturated. A low fat diet requires less EFA’s and a high fat diet requires more. Ideally, fat should form no more than 20% of your total calories. The average in Ireland and England is above 40%.