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Stop fearing healthy fats

Diet & Nutrition • 08 May 2017

The food industry has spent decades convincing the masses to run and hide when seeing the word ‘fat.’ Educate yourself about the different types of fats and you’ll soon be amazed by the benefits of healthy fats.

Fats are not as evil as you once were led to believe. Unlike carbohydrates (especially refined carbohydrates) that digest quickly, fats take longer to digest, making you feel fuller for longer. Good fats also contain plenty of important nutrients needed to nourish your body and keep you healthy.

Let’s start by differentiating between good and bad fats and where you’ll find them:

Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats are believed to be beneficial for good health as they improve blood cholesterol levels, help ease inflammation, stabilise heart rhythms and much more. Unsaturated fats are mostly found in foods from plants and are liquid at room temperature. 

Saturated fats

Saturated fats are found naturally in many foods, including meats, butter, cheese, coconut oil and dairy products. Saturated fats have been criticised as being unhealthy. However, recent research studies have shown that eating a moderate amount of saturated fats, balanced with a low calorie lifestyle, holds many benefits such as a stronger immune system, healthy bones, improved liver health and better brain function.

Trans fats

These are the fats you want to avoid. They not only raise your ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) levels but also simultaneously lower your ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL). Most bad fats are formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil and can be found in most baked goods, snacks like potato chips, fried food and margarine. 

Mainstream diets like banting and ketogenic meal plans have encouraged people to eat more healthy fats. Both of these diets focus on lowering the intake of foods high in refined  carbohydrates and increasing healthy fats. They have both been linked to significant weight loss, preventing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

If you’ve been stalking the ‘f’ word on food labels for most of your life and are still a bit sceptic, here’s a list of healthy fats and their health benefits: 

Avocados

Avocados have been described as a superfood. They contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats which help lower bad cholesterol levels. They also contain up to 20 different vitamins and minerals and are a great source of fibre. It’s important to note that, like with most foods, avocados are beneficial for your health when consumed in moderation. 

Peanut butter

This deliciously creamy spread is not only a treat but contains good fats like monounsaturated fats. Peanut butter is also a great source of protein. Be mindful of the sugar in peanut butter and rather opt for the sugar-free variants.

Salmon

Omega-3 fatty acids are another healthy fat found in oily fish such as salmon and tuna. Benefits of omega-3 include reducing inflammation and lowering the chances of contracting cancer and heart disease.  

Flaxseed

Flaxseed has become very popular in recent years and is high in a plant-based form of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed has been linked to reducing heart disease as it helps lower blood pressure. This magnificent seed can be used in baked goods or ground up and sprinkled over cereal or granola for breakfast.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is high in natural saturated fats which, when consumed in low amounts, have various health benefits. Coconut oil has been linked to healthy cholesterol levels, lowering the risk of heart disease and alleviating high blood pressure.

Almonds

Almonds are nuts high in fibre and protein and especially monounsaturated fats which are great for improving cholesterol levels. These delicious nuts can be a healthy snack or almond flour can be used as a great low-carbohydrate substitute for regular flour when baking.

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