Although fats are useful for making our skin supple, lubricating our joints, strengthening our cell membranes against oxidative damage and insulating our nervous system, they should be restricted in the diet, and mostly sourced from whole foods such as avocados, nuts and seeds.
Most people get more than the required amount of fat in their diet, which decreases dramatically after the age of two years of age. They can cause a range of diseases such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and colon cancer.
Fats are composed of building blocks like proteins and these are called fatty acids, there are three major categories of fatty acids.
These are found in animal products including dairy and fatty meats such as beef, veal, lamb and pork. They are also found in some vegetable products such as coconut oil, palm kernel oil and vegetable shortening.
The liver uses saturated fats to manufacture cholesterol, which means that an above adequate supply in the diet can raise blood cholesterol levels, especially in the low-density lipoproteins (LDLs).
These are often referred to as ‘heart healthy fats’ and found in plant sources such as avocados, nuts, seeds, olive and sunflower oils as well as in fish. These types of fats actually lower your total blood cholesterol level, however in doing so they may also reduce the high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) or good cholesterol.
They are also very high in calories and should be eaten not more than 10% of daily calorie intake.
Found mostly in vegetable and nut oils such as olive, peanut and canola, these fats reduce LDLs without impacting on HDLs, however the impact is relatively modest, and it is recommended not to consume more than 10% of diet of these types of fats.
These are created when polyunsaturated oils are altered through hydrogenation, which is a process used to harden liquid vegetable oils into solid foods like margarine.
These types of fats are extremely harmful to our health and should be avoided.
There are two types of fats that are essential to our body function and must be consumed in food, as they are not manufactured by the body. Most people get enough omega 6 fats from vegetable oil and margarine, however omega 3 fatty acids may need to be supplemented in the form of ground flaxseed, which is needed for proper brain and nerve functioning.
Cooking with coconut oil is a great way to get this fat into your diet, while cutting back on some of the other oils that have lower smoking points, and therefore altered through the process of cooking. Although it is a saturated fat, it has many positive health benefits.
Where to get good fatty acids in your diet
Avocados, cold pressed oils, and nuts and seeds are a great way to get your requirement of fats in the diet, without resorting to the more nefarious of the fats, with the host of health complications that can come from consumption of these fats.