Fats in our food – a friend or foe for weight loss and wellbeing

Fats in our food – a friend or foe for weight loss and wellbeing? Part one

For years, we’ve been told that a low-fat diet is the key to weight loss, managing cholesterol, and preventing health problems. But more than just the amount of fat, it’s the types of fat you eat that really matter. It’s complicated and can feel like a bit of a minefield, so here is part one of our boot camp guide to fats.

Is fat a friend or foe for weight loss and your general wellbeing? There is no simple answer, and the shortest answer is ‘both’!

Bad fats increase cholesterol and the risk of certain diseases, while good fats, in moderation, protect your heart and support overall health. For example, good fats – such as omega-3 fats – are essential to your health.

Fats you may have heard of might include monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, trans fats and saturated fats.

Knowing which guidance to follow re fat can be complicated and confusing – for example, the current recommended amount is 70-90g per person, per day, which is currently more than protein. This makes very little sense because, in a small (100g) bag of nuts, if we are not careful, we can get the daily recommended amount instantly, leaving no room for manoeuvre. Therefore watching and controlling portion size is absolutely critical.

Trans fats are chemically altered vegetable oil. They are produced artificially and formed during a process called hydrogenation, which turns liquid oil into solid fat, and hydrogenated fats must be declared on the label. Hydrogenated fats are unnatural fats that are detrimental to your health.

Trans fats can be found in many cakes, pastries, pies, chips and fast foods. They are used by the food industry to extend the shelf life of processed foods and are used extensively because they are a cheap ingredient, but we simply don’t need them in our food! Other bad fats can also be found in ice cream, cheese and butter.

However, be careful. Trans fat or hydrogenated fat is not always easy to spot on labels as does not have to be included in the nutritional label, therefore you need to read the list of ingredients and look out for “hydrogenated vegetable fat” and if you read it, put the food back on the shelf and chose an alternative. Marks and Spencer advertise that none of their products contain TRANS fat.

So make sure you know what you’re looking for and always read the labels carefully to control your daily fat portions. The best bet, and the simplest message, is to avoid bad fats altogether: cook fresh food and avoid fast food, deep-fried food and pastries.

Look out for part two of our guide to fats on the blog next week.

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