Solving The Fat Conundrum: Just Which Fats Are Ok And Which Aren’t?
We delve into the world of nutritional fats to shed some light on the good, the bad and the downright must avoid
Fat tends to get its fair share of bad press in the nutritional stakes, and in actual fact it’s quite unfair. A fatty diet is linked to colon and prostate cancers – major killers of the male of the species – with heart disease up there as common killer of males and females too.
A fatty diet is linked to colon and prostate cancers as well as heart disease
It's these sorts of stats that give fats a bad rap, alongside a dollop of misinformation and a glug of assumption, many don’t realise that consuming fat can be a good thing (yes, really!)
Well. in moderation. The average Brit consumes close to 35% of their daily calories from fat, which is too much according to the Health Education Authority, who recommend an intake of no more than 30% of ones daily calories from fat (these figures differ slightly for men and women).
The average Brit consumes close to 35% of their daily calories from fat
What often comes as a surprise for people is that there are a lot of different types of fat, and some of them are so good for you that they’re known as ‘essential fats’. So before you go nutritional fat shaming – learn which are good and bad and where they can be found.
Click right for info on the following 5 types of fat:
1. Saturated fats
2. Monounsaturated fats
3. Trans fatty acids
4. Polyunsaturated fats
5. Essential fatty acids
Saturated Fats (Bad)
Where can saturated fats be found?
Found in meat (don’t worry, we’ll explain later), butter, cheese, eggs and coconut oils, there are several types of saturated fatty acids. These are the most difficult for your body to digest and result in the storing of fat in areas you don't want it. Look out for palmitic acid, myrisitc acid and lauric acid on ingredients lists.
What do saturated fats do?
Saturated fats raise your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the bad stuff), which is responsible for clogging artery walls, thus increasing your chance of heart disease or a stroke.
The one type of saturated fat you don’t need to avoid so much is stearic acid (found in lean red meat). This won’t raise your LDL levels, it’s actually proven to lower them, so rejoice, meat can remain on the menu.
How much saturated fat should you be eating?
Saturated fats need to be kept to a bare minimum – only 5% of your total calories per day is recommended.
Top tip: Daily recommended calorie intake is 2,500 kcal for men and 2,000 kcal for women.
Monounsaturated Fats (Good)
Where can monounsaturated fats be found?
Found most commonly in peanut oils and olive oils.
What do monounsaturated fats do?
These are considered ‘heart healthy’ fats, and the best thing about them – they either have no effect on cholesterol levels or, in the form of oleic acid, lower LDL (bad) without affecting HDL (good) cholesterol. Excellent news as olive oil is a wonderful creation – but it should still be consumed in moderation.
How much monounsaturated fat should you be eating?
Though they are considered a good fat, monounsaturated fats should still make up only 15% of your daily calorie intake.
Trans Fatty Acids (Bad)
Where can trans fats be found?
Most commonly found in dairy products and red meat, as well as margarine, cakes, biscuits and many deep fried foods (especially chips). So, yeah, a lot of the stuff many of us like to eat on a cheat day.
What do trans fats do?
A trans fat is created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil in order to keep it ‘stable’ for frying and to prevent it from going rancid. Processed food makers have been slowly replacing saturated fats (such as lard) with hydrogenated vegetables in order to cut out cholesterol. But these hydrogenated fats act like saturated fats in the blood, raising your cholesterol and lowering the ‘good’ high-density cholesterol.
How much trans fat should you be eating?
Trans fatty acids aren’t explicitly listed on nutrition labels, so they’re tricky little buggers to spot. Unfortunately, nutritional labelling isn’t standardised so trans fats don't have to be listed. I in order to maintain a healthy diet – keep them to a bare minimum.
Polyunsaturated Fats (Good)
Where can polyunsaturated fats be found?
Most commonly found in soya beans, sunflower oil and corn-based products.
What do polyunsaturated fats do?
Unlike some monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats lower both LDL and HDL cholesterol. There is a type of polyunsaturated fat known as conjugated linoleic acid, found in certain meat and dairy products, which may have strong health benefits: including the ability to protect the body against atherosclerosis (thickening of the arteries), to reduce the risk of diabetes, and to inhibit the growth of prostate-cancer cells.
How much polyunsaturate fat should you be eating?
Despite the positives they bring to the body, it’s not necessary to consume more than 5% of your daily calorie intake from polyunsaturated fats.
Essential Fatty Acids (Good)
Where can essential fatty acids be found?
Mainly found in cooking oils (omega-6 fatty acid) and in common oily fish such as mackerel. Can also be found in nuts, flaxseeds and green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale.
What do essential fatty acids do?
Omega-3 (found in salmon, sardines, chia seeds and tofu) slows the body’s production of prostaglandins, chemical compounds that can cause excessive blood clotting, which can lead to heart disease. The omega-6 found in essential fatty acids help to boost the immune system and improve the condition of your skin – win, win.
How much should you be eating?
Only 6% of your daily calories should come from omega-6 and 1% from omega-3, according to the British Nutrition Foundation Taskforce.