Fats and their effects
Unsaturated fats, the ‘good fats’ are our friends. There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Let’s say that monounsaturated fats are all the people we befriend over the years who have a positive impact upon our lives. Consumption of monounsaturated fats in the diet is advised as they provide positive health benefits, such as a cholesterol lowering effect. The other type of unsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fats, are like our best friends who offer us something that we cannot provide for ourselves. Someone to laugh with and offer support when it is needed most. Polyunsaturated fats cannot be made by the body and must be provided by the diet for optimal health. Functions within the body include maintaining structural integrity and metabolic functions of cell membranes, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering effects. That’s why consumption of polyunsaturated fats is associated with a lower risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD).
Saturated fats, the ‘bad fats’ are not our friends. Saturated fats are like the people we try to avoid in life. Those who bring negativity into your life and make your flame burn just that little less brightly. Increased cholesterol levels and CHD risk is increased with consumption of saturated fats. We still consume saturated fats though as they are found in many foods but we should take steps to avoid them.
And the Ugly
Lastly, trans fats, the ‘ugly fats’. Trans fats are like those people who are…to put it nicely…ugly on the inside. As with saturated fat, consumption of trans fats increases cholesterol levels and CHD risk. Avoid.
So how do we shift the balance so there is more of the ‘good’ in your life? I’m afraid I can’t help you on a psychological level to restore the balance of positive people but I can tell you what foods contain more of the ‘good fats’ to nourish and look after your body. You’ll feel good by eating the best foods for you and you never know, other good things may just come your way too.
Firstly, I’d like to point out that different foods contain varying proportions of different types of fats. For example, NUTTAB states that olive oil contains approximately 75% monounsaturated fat, 9% polyunsaturated fat and 16% saturated fat. For simplicity, olive oil is listed a good source of monounsaturated fats as the benefits of the unsaturated fats negate the proportionally smaller amount of saturated fat. So with that said:
Monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, nuts and avocados.
Polyunsaturated, omega 6 fats (Linoleic Acid, LA), include seed oils such as safflower, grapeseed and sunflower. It is also found in some nuts (such as walnuts, pecans, brazil and pine nuts) and seeds (such as sunflower seeds).
Polyunsaturated, omega 3 fats, are found in different forms depending on the source. Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) is found in canola oils, linseeds and certain nuts such as walnuts. The commonly referred to forms of omega 3 fats are EPA and DHA (let’s just leave it at that as the names are too long!). These are found in oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel.
Note: It is important to include sources of both omega 6 and omega 3 fats in your diet as they have slightly different functions within the body. For this reason it is recommended by the National Heart Foundation that adults consume 2-3 serves of oily fish (150g) per week.
Saturated fats are found in milk, cream, butter, cheese, most meat, palm oil, coconut oil, as well as foods such as pies, biscuits, cakes and pastries. Choose low fat or no fat dairy products, replace butter with avocado, pick lean cuts of meat and trim all visible fat from meat. Choose low fat versions or find low fat recipes for pies, biscuits, cakes and pastries. Good old-fashioned moderation and sensible portions is recommended too for these ‘sometimes’ foods.
And the Ugly
Trans fats in foods are produced by a process of hydrogenation of oils during food manufacturing. Naturally occurring trans fats are found in some animal products including butter, cheese and meat. In order to minimise any consumption, choose foods low in saturated fats.
Ways to increase the ‘good’ and decrease the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’ fats
- Use oils high in unsaturated fats such as canola, olive and sunflower oils
- Consume oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackeral
- Replace butter on bread with avocado
- Replace butter used in cooking with unsaturated fats such as canola, olive and sunflower oils
- Choose low fat or no fat dairy products
- Choose lean cuts of meat and trim all visible fat
- Avoid foods that are higher in saturated fats such as pies, biscuits, cakes and pastries or choose healthier versions of these foods such as those displaying the National Heart Foundation tick
I hope that you are now able to make an informed decision when choosing oils and foods. Or you may find yourself strangely personalising the fats, saying ‘You’re not going to bring me down and pollute me with your negativity, I’m going to go hang out with my friends instead’. Whatever way works for you is a good thing.
- Dietitians Association of Australia
- National Health and Medical Research Council
- National Heart Foundation
- NUTTAB 2010