A big fat lie – Why fats aren’t all bad.

Fat has had some bad press in the last couple of decades since the Jayne Fonda’s Lycra clad fitness days where fat free and low fat was the new rage. The initial understanding was that fat causes fat and that to become streamlined and ‘fat free’ you had to eat this way too. However, no one at this point addressed the fact that low fat and fat free products were being pumped full of artificial sweeteners and sugars that have a far more devastating effect on the body.

However, I’ll address that shortly. Let’s deal with the biggest lie ever told to a health conscious population where women strived to be ‘skinny’ and men strived to gain muscle. Fat free is not the way to do it. There are several categories of fat to start with. Saturated fat is the obvious one. The one that is solid at room temperature and the one that comes attached as a white streak to meat that you buy (e.g bacon or steak). This is the visceral fat of animals and is of no nutritional benefit at all. In fact the human body doesn’t digest this fat easily at all and it is usually stored until the liver can deal with it through the increase of LDL Cholesterol (the bad one).

Unsaturated fats are the ones found in oils like olive oil, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil and so forth. These are liquid at room temperature. These fats are split into polyunsaturated varieties and monounsaturated varieties but it is acknowledged that all unsaturated fats can help cut the bad cholesterol in the body and in fact cut the risk of heart disease significantly. Omega 3 oils and Omega 6 oils found in fish, eggs, seeds, avocados are essential for healthy neurological functioning (aka brain foods) and cell repair as well as maintaining healthy joints, bones, skin and hair and metabolism. So needless to say it’s not rocket science. These fats help you use fats.

Trans fats are the new concern. These are the fats those that are heated above a specific temperature making them ‘hydrogenated’ in nature. These fats are often found in processed and fast foods but in the UK supermarkets have to state clearly whether a food contains hydrogenated vegetable oils as these fats have been linked to certain diseases and conditions. These fats help prolong the shelf life of food but when consumed they solidify within arteries and veins, obstructing blood flow and literally clogging us up from the inside.

So now we are left with a couple of generations that are afraid of full fat varieties of food. With the Body Coach, Clean Eating Alice, Fearne Cotton and so many more big names trying to encourage people to eat clean and opt for full fat it’s a few decades of scaremongering that they have to overcome. There is still a big demand for low fat and fat free alternatives perpetuated by the likes of Slimming World and Weight Watchers. What they fail to tell their ‘customers’ (not clients as they fail on so many fronts when it comes to health and fitness knowledge – losing weight doesn’t qualify anyone to label themselves a ‘Health and Nutrition EXPERT’! Yet it appears that these chocolate certificates or identities are being handed out like party bags at these so called ‘fat camp’ establishments). Now back to Full fat/low fat and fat free. There’s a range of fat free yogurts out there with a huge name, endorsed on every meal plan by slimming world. It’s ingredients contain sugar, artificial sweeteners, colourings, additives to prolong it’s best by date and guess what they taste watery and sweet but that doesn’t matter when you can consume these in ‘unlimited’ quantities right? In actual fact the sugars and sweeteners just result in your body releasing insulin and thus in effect storing the sugars as fat especially when not used as energy and then you experience that feeling of a sugar crash later reaching for yet another low fat, or fat free manufactured product that will monopolise on this cycle of a dependency on these highly processed, manufactured, nutritionally inept goods. On the other hand if a portion of full fat Greek yogurt was consumed with a few berries, a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of nuts the nutritional benefits are amazing! Calcium, protein and probiotics in the yogurt as well as fats that can be digested and utilised by the body. Vitamins and minerals in the berries and honey, the honey especially protecting against allergens and inflammations. Nuts prove a source of Omega 3 and protein and all of them combined will keep you much fuller for longer regulating insulin production and metabolism so that you are less likely to feel a sugar dip or reach for the biscuit tin.

Changing the way you eat is never easy, we have developed as a species to have an emotional attachment to our food. It is the way we socialise, it is what we view as part of our home,, our family, our relationships. It’s hard when for years you have been brain washed into believing certain scare stories such as heart disease and cancer as being linked to consuming fat. It is hard to accept that fat actually beats fat and that it can in fact help you lose fat. But after years of fat free and low fat unsuccessfully treating a western world where illnesses such a diabetes and weight related diseases are still on the increase year on year but is time to stop feeling frightened of full fat and start nourishing our bodies the way we were always intended to.

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