Last week I talked about why fat is essential to the workings of a healthy body, this week we look at what fat should be going on your plate and what fat you should stay away from.
Fats should make up approximately 30 per cent of your diet. That does not mean that this percentage of your diet should be fish and chips, Chinese takeaways and ice-cream, though! Getting the balance right between saturated fat and unsaturated fat is key.
Saturated fat is found in meat and animal products, including dairy. Chocolate is also a major source, and despite claims for its antioxidant properties, should be eaten in extreme moderation. An average bar of milk chocolate has approximately 46 per cent of the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance). Pure cocoa powder, on the other hand, has hardly any at all – less than 1 per cent. It’s a good substitute for chocolate in baking, if you want to get the chocolate taste without the fat.
Other animal products that are high in saturated fatty acids include processed meats such as pâté, which is also combined with butter and in most cases cream, making it a very high-calorie food. Hard cheese and butter are also full of saturated fat. The only two saturated fatty acids that do not come from animal sources are coconut oil and palm oil (more about the health benefits of coconut oil later on).
Put simply saturated fats make you heavy and fat. If you want to consume the maximum amount in one meal, then a lamb korma would be about as high as you can get – especially if you have it with a naan bread. A much healthier Indian meal would be chicken tikka or tandoori, with a vegetable curry side dish and a small portion of basmati rice or a chapatti (not both!).
With Chinese food, so much of it is fried that it’s easy to consume lots of fat. A good option would be to have steamed fish with vegetables, and a small amount of boiled or steamed rice.
If you stop yourself going to these kinds of restaurants you may feel like a bit of a pariah, socially. I love going for an Indian meal or getting a takeaway sometimes, but those are the type of dishes I choose. When I go out I don’t have any less fun than my friends who eat lamb korma, I just don’t go home fatter! It’s vital that you learn to adapt the things you enjoy so you don’t feel like you are on a diet. If you stop everything you like overnight, you are less likely to stick to the programme.
Some saturated fat in the diet is acceptable; if you are a meat eater, or enjoy hard cheese, then it’s impossible not to get some. However, overconsumption has a huge and negative impact on our health. An excess gets deposited in our fat stores and increases our risk of a whole range of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer. Remember this: if a fat solidifies at room temperature (i.e. once it’s out of the oven and cooled), it will solidify inside your body once digested. So when you eat a lot of meat, it’s not even your fat that’s making you fat, you are getting ‘ready-made’ fat from the animal, who has done all the conversion for you!
Coconut Oil has been demonized as one of the only two saturated fats (the other is palm oil) that doesn’t come from animals. However, research has shown that the fatty acids in coconut oil differ from animal fats and can actually be beneficial to health, and especially brain function. Coconut is the best oil for cooking as it is stable at high temperatures.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you which fatty foods not to eat – you are too smart for that, am I right? What I may need to tell you about is the fats that you do need to eat: the fats that improve your health by helping to balance your hormones and also aid your metabolism, therefore helping you to lose weight.
The key difference between the two types of fat is that unsaturated fat is liquid at room temperature, and therefore within the body. This liquidity means they can be used for things like cell membranes.
However, the fact they are so delicate that they can be used in this way also makes them fragile, and exposure to heat, light or even oxygen reduces or eliminates their nutritional qualities. This is why you pay so much more for extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil – it has been extracted from the olive in a cold, darkened room to preserve its quality. Good quality oils like this always come in darker bottles to protect them further from the light and should be stored in a cool, dark place.
When it comes to cooking, use them for dressings but never for cooking because heat not only destroys any nutritional benefit, it actually makes them toxic and harmful. Do add a few drops of extra-virgin oil to your roast potatoes or stir-fry after you’ve cooked them in vegetable or coconut oil though, as this gives them extra flavour.
If you want to be healthy and slim, you must look at your diet and make sure you are taking in the right materials to carry out the job of making you slim! One of the easiest ways to get a good balance of omega-6 and omega-3 is to crush some fresh seeds every morning and sprinkle them on cereal just before eating; or at some other time in the day, toss them in a salad. An ideal blend would be flax and pumpkin (omega-3), with sesame and sunflower (omega-6). Because it’s easier to consume omega-6 in the diet, use twice as much flax and pumpkin.
If You’re Not Getting Enough
The benefits of unsaturated fats and in particular omega-6 and omega-3 are infinite in terms of your health. Here’s a list of some of the many symptoms of a deficiency in them:
• Skin problems – especially dry skin conditions such as eczema
• Hair loss
• Liver degeneration
• Kidney degeneration
• Gland malfunction
• Susceptibility to infection
• Failure to heal
• Arthritis and other inflammatory conditions
• Heart and circulation problems
• Behavioural disturbances
• Growth retardation
• Impaired vision
• Tingling sensations in arms and legs
• Loss of coordination
• General inflammation
• High blood pressure
• High triglyceride levels (fats in the blood)
• Sticky platelets (causes clotting)
• Increased risk of cancer.
If you think you may have an EFA deficiency or would like more information on the scientific nature of EFAs and other nutrients then I would recommend the book, ‘Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill’ by Udo Erasmus. Visit www.udoschoice.co.uk for more information, and to see a range of his outstanding products.
By using the colour code system in The Placebo Diet, you will learn how to choose the right foods to ensure that you get a good intake of EFAs, and enjoy all the health benefits that entails.