The Truth About: Saturated Fats

The supermarket shelves are full of ‘low fat’ alternatives; ‘lighter’ soft cheese, 2% fat yoghurt, reduced fat baked goods. For decades now, the western world has been fighting against Fat, the big scary word that we’ve been told causes obesity, high cholesterol and coronary heart disease. Fat makes you fat, right? 

Fat is a vital part of our diet as human beings. It helps our brain function, helps break down and absorb vitamins A, D, E and K, and can keep your body from converting excess energy from carbohydrates into body fat. That said, not all fats are created equal. There are several different types of fat that all serve different purposes and some are more helpful than others.

Un-saturated fats are often nicknamed ‘good’ fats, and include avocados, vegetable oils, olive oil, nuts and some fish. They can be divided into two categories: 

  • monounsaturated fats, which can help moderate cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and lower risk of heart disease 
  • polyunsaturated fats, which help with muscle mobility and blood clotting and are sources of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as tuna, sardines and salmon and plant-based foods like sunflower seeds and walnuts.

Saturated fats are the undercover hero of the fat family. The words ‘saturated fats’ get thrown about with talk of risk of heart disease, elevated cholesterol and body fat, but actually there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that saturated fats are directly to blame for increased risk of cardiovascular disease, nor will a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol reduce the risk.

In fact, they are essential to a healthy diet as each of the trillions of cells in our body contains and needs saturated fats; they are the building blocks for the cell membranes that keep our organs, glands, muscles and tissue all working as they should be. 

We recommend care with trans fats, often found alongside saturated fats in convenience foods and most likely the reason unsaturated fats have such a bad reputation. They are created when hydrogen molecules are added to vegetable oils, changing the chemical make-up of the oils to make them handy for giving food a longer shelf life and increasing flavour. This short-cutting comes at a price, as trans fats are known to raise cholesterol and increase chances of heart disease, strokes, liver dysfunction, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, as well as infertility in women. 

Fats are not something to fear

The trouble with the ‘low fat’ misconception of health is that taking away helpful fats for a product that is ‘reduced fat’ or ‘calorie controlled’ takes away flavour and longevity. This means that food manufacturers replace our saturated and unsaturated friendly fats with sugar, sweeteners and, even worse, trans fats. 

Fats are highly nutritious, and a fantastic source of energy. When you cut out fats, you cut down a significant proportion of calorie in-take, which sends the body’s system for storing energy as body fat into hyperdrive and actually limits production of fat-burning enzymes. This is part of the reason why people often put weight back on after working hard at a diet: the body is still in fat storing mode. 

Fats are not something to fear or to cut out of your diet. Your body needs a fats-inclusive, intuitive diet to able to function naturally how you were born to and to promote movement, vitality, and both mental and physical wellbeing.

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