The craze for low-fat diets has swept far and wide. This phenomenon has got to be right up there on the scoreboard for one of the worst fads out there.
Dietary fats supply some of the best, and most stable sources of energy. So if you want to keep that appetite at bay and those energy levels up, you need to make sure you are getting enough fat, and the enough of the healthiest types.
The body needs fat just to function properly, as minimum amounts of fat are required for proper hormone production. If hormone production is off, your ability to preserve muscle and lose fat will be too. Hormones regulate many things in the body, including your ability to build and maintain muscle tissue, which impacts on the speed of your metabolism. Also, as we all know, hormones are responsible for our moods, and a low-fat diet does a grumpy cow make…
Now we’ve established that you need fat in your diet, what types of fat are there, and how should you be incorporating them in your diet? The healthiest sources of fat are natural sources that comprise of mostly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These should make up the majority of your dietary fat intake. You may have heard them described as ‘good fats’ or ‘healthy fats’. I abstain from categorising any food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, because whilst some options are less nutritious than others, they’re not going to do you any harm, as part of an overall healthy diet.
Some common ‘healthy fat’ sources are: oily fish (salmon, herring, mackerel), flaxseed, avocado, whole eggs, nuts, natural nut butters (no additives), seeds, dark chocolate (over 70% cocoa content), olive oil and coconut oil.
Saturated fat has a particularly bad reputation within the diet industry; however, moderate amounts are actually required for optimal hormone function. That said, this type of fat (such as animal and dairy fat) should represent a smaller portion of your fat intake. Again, that’s not to say it’s ‘bad’, simply that it should be consumed in moderation. The official guidelines recommend that saturated fat should not comprise less than 10% of your total daily calorie intake, though this depends on the overall fat content of the diet that works best for you.
The only fats that are categorically unhealthy, and should be minimised in your diet, are hydrogenated and refined oils. Many processed and fast foods contain these, so always check the label. Watch out for the term ‘trans fats’ in the nutritional information, and also check the ingredients list for ‘hydrogenised’ or ‘partially hydrogenised’ oil. Again, small quantities as part of what’s largely a healthy diet aren’t going to do you any harm, but it is something to be aware of.
Now we’ve got the fat facts straight, I leave you with one final pointer: Whilst fat is an essential part of your diet, bear in mind that it is calorie dense, and should be consumed in a manner that allows you to remain within your calorie target. Eating your egg yolks is good. Downing a bottle of olive oil is excessive. It’s all a case of finding that balance. But once you’re au fait with how to include dietary fat, and embrace it’s delicious, goody goodness, you’ll look and feel one Hell of a lot better.