We have been expected to shy away from foods that are high in fat as part of a healthier lifestyle, yet as the influx of fat-free products continues to expand, so do our waistlines.
Are fats really bad for our health?
It’s a question that taxes many people, after years of reinforcement that fats are damaging to our health and should be avoided, it seems that we’re finally starting to understand that healthy fats are actually good for us.
Our body utilises fat for energy, therefore high fat foods are more energy-dense compared to those which are lower in fat. This means that food that is rich in fat will keep us feeling fuller for longer. However, this doesn’t mean we have an excuse to stuff our faces with pizza - we can’t consume just any old type of fat, it needs to be natural and healthy.
All fats are not created equal
We are guilty of grouping different types of fats together, tarring all fats with the same cholesterol-inducing, unhealthy brush. But fats can be split into different categories which have completely different effects on our bodies. These are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, along with saturated and trans fats.
Saturated and trans fats are accurately portrayed as the baddies, as these are the type of fats that can lead to weight gain, increased blood cholesterol and heart disease. These are typically found in red meat, baked goods such as pastries and cakes, and processed foods. On the other hand, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which are found in nuts, avocados, natural oils, fatty fish and flaxseed are beneficial to your heart, your cholesterol and your general health.
The omega 3 fats found in oily fish are especially important, as they provide the body with many benefits, including reducing inflammation, improving brain function and promoting cell growth. They have also been found to reduce symptoms of depression and stabilise moods. You can find these fatty acids in salmon, mackerel and herring. Finding good fats is especially crucial for vegetarians, who are unable to get any kind of fat from animal byproducts like milk and fish. Instead vegetarians should aim to add walnuts, avocados and flax seeds to their food to ensure that they aren't missing out on essential omega 3 fats.
Our bodies need fat to function and without an adequate amount we wouldn’t be able to survive. Fat is not only used for energy, but also helps to construct every cell in our bodies and regulate processes such as our metabolism. With this in mind, healthy fats are an essential part of everyone’s diet and should never be avoided for fear of weight gain or substituted for refined carbohydrates.
Here are some top tips to get more healthy fats into your diet.
- Cook with olive oil instead of vegetable oil.
- Snack on nuts and seeds, instead of chocolate and crisps.
- Swap red meat or chicken for fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel a few times a week.
- Swap high-calorie sandwich spreads for half an avocado and some salmon - the calories and fat content will still be high but the fat will benefit your body.
- Avoid food on the go such as prepacked sandwiches, cakes and biscuits.
- Switch to skimmed or almond milk instead of full fat.
- If you are looking to increase your calories, add natural peanut butter to fruit as a snack.
- Make your own hummus.
Aim to eat a varied diet, filled with fresh, natural food and avoid processed and takeaway food whenever you can. Keeping active is a huge element of looking good and feeling great, visit the gym a few times a week or try out an exercise class with a friend. As you can see, we have a huge variety of classes here at Fitness First Clubs.