Chewing the fat

Don’t worry, I always go for the low fat option.” This is something clients say to me all the time. And I always tell them to do the exact opposite from now on.

See, contrary to what most of us think, dietary fat is vital for optimal health; our bodies need it to function properly. The important thing to realise is that not all dietary fat (i.e. fat we eat) is created equal. There is a huge nutritional difference between say, a handful of almonds and a portion of fish and chips from the chippy (and no prizes for guessing which is better for you –sorry is not the fish and chips).

Look at it this way, the first food stuff many of us consume after birth is breast milk, which is 93 per cent fat. If fat was bad for us would Mother Nature really have provided us with so much of it to start us off in life?

Fat is important for proper cell function, helps us to absorb certain vitamins and produce certain hormones, helps our immune system to work properly, and is also an important slow-release energy source. 

Coconut oil can be eaten raw or used in cooking

Coconut oil can be eaten raw or used in cooking

Current guidelines suggest that 15 per cent of our daily caloric intake should be made up with healthy fats, but nutritional experts actually believe that this suggestion is too low. Nutritionists from leading UK nutritional consultancy company Mac Nutrition suggest that our diets aught to consist of anything between 15 and 80 per cent healthy fat. Those who regularly participate in endurance sports, such as long-distance running and cycling, should ensure over 22 per cent of their diet is based on fat. Meanwhile those who regularly participate in resistance activities (any exercises which sees the body lifting weight, including bodyweight) should consume between 25 and 45 per cent fat per day.

Brazil nuts are a great source of healthy fat

Brazil nuts are a great source of healthy fat

It is true however that some fats should be avoided, and these are known as “trans fats”.  These are primarily man-made substances and are found in margarine, fried food, pastries and highly-processed snack foods. These fats are known to severely increase our risk of cardiovascular disease, and to cause inflammation within our lymphatic system and blood vessels.

So when clients tell me they avoid fat as much as possible I suggest that they stop doing that, and that instead they start choosing full-fat yoghurt and milk, real butter and to get into the habit of snacking on handfuls of nuts (not bags full – nuts are high in calories despite containing loads of great nutrients). I also urge them to include other healthy fats such as oily fish, olive oil, coconut oil and eggs in their diets too.

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Laura Hilton