Fat isn’t as bad as many have perceived it to be, as a small amount is an essential part of a balanced diet. Especially as fat is a source of fatty acids, something the body cannot make itself. Also, and most importantly, it allows the body to absorb certain nutrients such as vitamin A, D and E.
So what are the different types of fats and what makes a good fat?
All food that contains fat can be categorised into three different kind of fats - trans, unsaturated and saturated. Trans fats are the category that the NHS recommend eating a low amount of, as the body finds these foods hard to digest, thus increasing the risk of heart disease, breast cancer, asthma and bad cholesterol levels. Largely due to the process of hydrogenation, which is used to prolong the shelf life of certain foods, and can be found in abundance in processed foods.
Saturated fatsare commonly known as solid fats, as they turn solid when at room temperature, clever hey. This can be found in most animal-based products, such as dairy and meat. Poultry and fish have a decreased amount of saturated fats, especially compared to red meat. It can also be found in tropical oils, most notably coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter, which can be found in snacks. Anything made with butter, margarine and shortening, such as cookies, cake and other desserts, have a high amount of saturated fat. Although saturated fats aren’t as bad for you as trans fats, a large amount of these in your diet can result in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and raise bad cholesterol levels.
Lastly, unsaturated fats can be either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. The atomic structure of monounsaturated fats ensures they remain in liquid form when at room temperature. This fat can be found in avocados, nuts, vegetable oils, such as avocado, apricot, macadamia, olive and canola oils. This is why the Mediterranean diet is seen as being one of the healthiest, as it is so high in monounsaturated fats, resulting in good heart health, a lower risk of heart disease and good cholesterol levels.
Whereas polyunsaturated fats can be found in sesame, soybean, walnut, rapeseed and flaxseed oils; as well as soya-based foods such as meat alternatives made from soya. It is also the main fat that is found in seafood, such as salmon, anchovies, oysters, trout, mackerel and even sardines. Polyunsaturated fats also contain high levels of omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids. This fat is good for providing the essential fats that your body isn’t able to produce, as well as lower rates of cardiovascular disease and bad cholesterol levels.
In case you’re trying to figure out what superfoods are best to consume more of, here’s a handy guide to our top 5 for a solid helping of good fats:
Not only is avocado great as the main ingredient for guacamole but it also helps to lower inflammation. It is different to other fruits and contains 77% fat, the main fatty acid is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. An acid that is also predominantly in olive oil. Avocados also contain 40% more potassium than bananas and are a great source of fibre. It’s no wonder that our avocado oil, which is made from South African avocados is high in monounsaturated fat and contains no cholesterol.
This fruit is most likely not the first that you may think of when thinking of metabolism-boosting foods. But this ‘nectar of the gods’ can help to lower cholesterol levels because of its low levels of monounsaturated fat. When in oil form, it’s nutritional benefits are vast, with high levels of vitamin E, known to tighten and help wrinkles with regular use.
3. Tree nuts
Nuts make the best snacks, as they are portable and contain amino acids, vitamin E and unsaturated fats. However, they must be in raw form, so as not to add sugar and diminish the health benefits of the tree nuts. In particular, almonds, walnuts and macadamias are meant to be the healthiest. Macadamia oil is also a great source of vitamin E and is also a monounsaturated fat that adds a sweet element to any bake or stir-fry, whilst containing a higher level of monounsaturated fat than olive oil.
4. Dark chocolate
Many see chocolate as an indulgence but dark chocolate is full of fat but it also contains antioxidants and nutrients. It has been reported that having a single piece of dark chocolate five or more times a week can help to counteract heart disease and increase metabolism.
Last but not least is on our list is soybeans. The bean that is full of protein, contains no cholesterol, low in saturated fat, is a good source of essential fatty acids, fibre, vitamins and minerals. This also means that foods made with soybeans, such as tofu, miso and soy milk, have the same nutritional benefits.