A fat lot of good
High fat intake is often linked with major health problems including obesity and heart disease. It's little wonder then that the Food Standards Agency recommend a low-fat diet for everyone. However, we all need some fat in our diet to stay healthy. Fat is a good energy source and vital for the body to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K.
The confusing part is that not all fats were created equally - some are better for us than others. What's more, although high in calories, there is evidence that you could burn fat more quickly by changing the type you eat. So how can we get the balance right?
- Monounsaturated rather than polyunsaturated oils - olive oil rather than sunflower oil for instance.
- The right balance of 'omegas'. Linoleic acid (omega-6) and linolenic acid (omega-3) are types of polyunsaturated 'essential fatty acids' or EFAs.
- Foods containing omega-3 EFAs - vital for a healthy heart and good lung function, and found in oily fish, flaxseed oil, flaxseeds (linseeds), walnut oil, mustard seeds, pumpkin seeds, leafy green veg, grains and spirulina (an algae available as a powder or tablets from health stores). Most of us get enough omega-6 oils from sunflower, safflower and corn oil.
- Foods including almonds, avocadoes, olives and olive oil, cashew, macadamia nuts and peanuts, which all contain oleic acid, a component of omega-9.
- Omega-9 also contains stearic acid, found in animal fat, it's a saturated fat, but it is more likely to be used as energy than stored as fat. Crucially, the body can convert it to oleic acid, which is monounsaturated and therefore heart-healthy.
We all need some fat in our diet to stay healthy, it's a good energy source and vital for the body to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K.