The Skinny On Fats: Fat Facts
For many years Australia’s obesity and weight loss story has featured ‘fat’ as the villain. Not anymore. With a growing stable of scientific evidence differentiating between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats, it has become increasingly clear that all fats are not created equal.
Rather than heeding the decades-old ‘no fat, low-fat’ message – which more recent studies reveal was ill-founded in the first place when dietary fat intake guidelines were first introduced – Colette Heimowitz, Vice President of Nutrition and Education at Atkins, advises finding out about fat rather than instinctively avoiding it in order to boost our long-term health, and whittle down our waistlines.
“In many cases, low-fat and fat-free foods are far less healthy than their full-fat counterparts. Where fat is removed from foods it is often replaced with sugars and refined carbohydrates, which may have actually contributed the twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes we are experiencing today” explained Ms Heimowitz.
“Fat is essential to long-term health, supplying essential fatty acids the body cannot produce itself, as well as transporting vitamins A, D, E and K into and around the body and helping develop eyesight and brain development in young children and infants. Fat also helps satiate sooner, sending signals to our brains that we are full, and is a slow burning form of energy which helps us feel fuller for longer.
What we need to focus on, instead of fearing fat, is learning to differentiate between different types of fats so that we know which fats to avoid, how much to consume, and which to include in our daily meals” she said. “And remember that moderation is still relevant when we’re talking about fat. If you consume too much of anything, whether it’s a pile of avocadoes packed with good fats or a pack of donuts full of trans fats in one sitting, you will inevitably gain weight.”
Good fats come from natural food sources, including nuts, seeds and vegetables, and should be the dominant type of fat in a balanced diet because they reduce the risk of clogged arteries. Good fats include:
- Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) , which are those found in olive and canola oil, most nuts and avocadoes
- Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) which are found in oils from vegetables, seeds and some nuts such as sunflower, safflower, flaxseed, soybean, corn, cottonseed grape seed and sesame oils. Fatty fish such as sardines, herring and salmon contain PUFAs
- Essential fatty acids (EFAs) which are compounds of dietary fats the body can not produce itself such as omega-3 which is found in shellfish, coldwater fish and omega 6 which is found in seeds and grains, chicken and pork.
Research is Evolving
Saturated fats also come from natural food sources. Fats that remain hard at room temperature contain saturated fat.
- Saturated fatty acids (SFAs) are found in products such as butter, lard, suet, palm, coconut oils and most animal fats.
- Research has shown that when this type of fat is consumed in conjunction with an Atkins style low carbohydrate eating plan the level of saturated fat in the body will not increase since this style of eating primarily burns fat.
These are man-made fats, which often appear in processed foods, and should be avoided. Consuming too much increases the risk of heart attack and inflammation.
- Trans fats are typically found in foods we should all avoid such as fried food, baked goods, cookies, lollies, icing and vegetable shortenings.
- Beware of ingredients such as ‘shortening’ and ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ vegetable oil on product labels – they are trans fats in disguise.
To boost your daily intake of good fats, Ms Hemowitz recommends:
- Drizzling vegetables and salads with extra virgin olive oil rather than pre made dressings
- Cooking with canola and most nut oils or butter
- Eating fish or shellfish two to three times a week
- Snacking on olives and avocadoes and including them in salads
- Snacking on nuts and seeds and adding them as garnishes to dishes.
Scientifically formulated for safe and effective weight loss, weight management and healthy lifelong eating, Atkins is an easy to follow, flexible four-phased program (start at the phase that best suits you) that helps you build a diet around whole foods rich in vitamins and ‘good carbohydrates’ including low sugar fruits, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, dairy, good fats, and protein (fish, poultry, meat and tofu) – while at the same time helping you eliminate highly processed carbs such as white flour and sugar.