Some people avoid eating fat because there is a tendency to think that it has something to do with the reason their clothes are too tight. But it is eating too much of anything that is the reason we have love-handles. Fat is essential in our diet because aside from the basic manufacture of cells and hormones, it helps us absorb vitamins A, D and E (that’s skin, hair, nails, bones, eyesight and disease immunity to you and me). What are the different types?
Saturated fats: (red meats, all animal fat, butter, cheese, coconut oil, all mostly solid at room temperature). The thinking is that too much saturated fat raises bad cholesterol so the less you can eat the better. Instead swap them for Unsaturated fats. There are two groups under this umbrella term: Monounsaturated (olive oil, nuts, avocados, seeds) and Polyunsaturated, which include Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids (EFAs).
If you’ve nodded off, this is the important bit. The body can’t make some EFAs, so we need to get them from food as they help massively with heart health, brain health and fight inflammation. However, as a nation, we overeat on the omega 6 foods (oils such as corn and sunflower because of their use in making processed cakes and biscuits) and not enough omega 3. So the upshot is, if we stick to eating a variety of oily fish, tofu, nuts, flax seeds, omega 3 enriched eggs and green leafy veg, then we’ll be rocking and rolling. Then …whoa…there’s Trans-Fats. These may creep into your diet now and then (processed ready meals and foods with a long shelf life) but generally speaking we should avoid them. They’re chemically altered and do nothing for our health AT ALL.
Roughly speaking fat should make up around 30% of our calorific intake. Sounds a lot but fat (from whichever source) is calorie dense with 9 calories per gram (carbohydrate and protein has 4) so you don’t get much for your buck. I have about 1400 calories per day so for me that’s around 45g fat (405 calories) per day. When you think that one 15ml tablespoon of olive oil has about 14g fat and 120 calories and a 15g serving of walnuts (that’s about 7 halves) has about 10g fat and 105 calories, then my 45g fat is going to be used up pretty fast.
(Adapted from a piece originally written for Woman magazine February 2022)