There’s a common misconception that eating fats will lead to fat gain, therefore many people follow low-fat diets or cut out fats altogether, just because of the very word: ‘fat’. But we definitely shouldn’t fear fats as they are an essential addition to a balanced diet and it can be potentially damaging to cut them out.
The reason fats are so essential to our diets is they provide us with energy. In order for our body to turn its fat stores into energy, we need to eat fat. Following so far? Fats also make us feel full and can help prevent energy slumps throughout the day. A diet rich in the right type of fats can also help to protect against obesity and metabolic diseases. So eating fats is good, right? However, this fear and confusion surrounding fats perhaps stems from the fact that there are many different types of fats, some of which we should be trying to cut down on and some that we should be eating more of.
The four main types of fats are Saturated fats, Monounsaturated fats, Polyunsaturated fats and Trans fats. Trans fats, found in food such as takeaways, biscuits, cakes and pastries, can increase cholesterol levels in your blood and should be enjoyed occasionally as a treat. We should aim to eat a third of each of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Ensuring this balance means we’ll get a wide range of nutrients from all sources.
Full fat yoghurt – Not only a god source of fat but also probiotic bacteria to help maintain a healthy gut. Just look for the natural varieties with no added sugar.
Butter – Rich in Vitamins A and D, butter can increase good cholesterol in our bodies.
Oily fish – Salmon and mackerel are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Steam, bake or grill your fish as opposed to frying in batter.
Sesame seeds – A whole host of nutrients in a tiny seed, sesame seeds can help to improve heart health and blood pressure.
Chia seeds – A source of protein and fibre, chia seeds also contain more calcium once for ounce than milk.
Olive oil – Live like the Mediterranean’s with olive oil, rich in cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fats
Avocado – A favourite addition to any meal, containing potassium to help control blood pressure and folate which is crucial for cell repair.
Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans – A convenient snack, nuts in their whole form, or as nut butter are a great way to include fats in your diet.
Try this recipe for Salmon, Orange and Beetroot salad, packed with flavour from the healthy sources of fat:
Salmon, Orange and Beetroot Salad
Guideline (510kcal, P: 43g, F: 22g, C: 34g)
130g smoked salmon cut into pieces
1 pre-cooked beetroot, sliced
½ packet quick-cook puy lentils
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1. Cook the lentils in the microwave as per the packet instructions and leave to cool slightly.
2. Toss together the spinach, lentils and beetroot in a bowl until mixed through.
3. Scatter the smoked salmon and pecans over the top of the salad.
4. To make the dressing, mix the zest of the orange with the juice and the mustard and season with salt and pepper.
5. Pour the dressing over the salad, along with a few orange segments to finish off.
When it comes down to it, the right kinds of fats won’t make you fat. The only way you will gain weight is by consuming more calories than your body burns. Simples. Therefore you won’t even gain weight by eating solely fats, provided you maintain a caloric balance (not that we advocate eating only fats as your body needs a range of nutrients from a variety of foods and let’s face it, it would get seriously boring). Those products labeled as ‘low-fat’ or ‘fat-free’ often contain more sugars to give them taste and it’s this that can contribute to weight gain. So ditch the low-fat diet and embrace the delicious sources of healthy fats above. As long as you maintain your caloric intake while including these sources of fats, you won’t gain weight. Another diet fad (hopefully) set straight!