Is This a Joke?

For over thirty years, the fat in our diet has been considered the culprit in causing obesity, heart disease and high cholesterol. Unfortunately, the resulting “low-fat” foods and diets have not delivered on their promise of weight control and improved health. Quite the opposite is true. In fact, it’s the type of fat that matters, in addition to how much you consume. Reducing your intake of certain types of fat reduces the risk of several chronic diseases, but other fats are absolutely essential to your health and well-being.

Sifting through all the conflicting information on fats can leave you with more questions than answers. What do you need to know about polyunsaturated fat, omega 3 fatty acids and the other confusing terms in the language of fats? It’s quite simple: learn to incorporate the good fats into your HEALTHY EATING while reducing your consumption of the bad fats.

Myths and facts about fats and oils

Eating a low-fat diet is the best way to curb obesity

• The obesity rate for South Africans has doubled in the last 20 years, coinciding with the advent of the low-fat revolution.
• In the 1960’s, black South Africans derived 45% of their calories from fat, and only 13% of the black population was obese. Now, while most get only about 33% of calories from fat, 34% of the black population qualifies as obese!

Low–fat diets are essential in helping you to lose weight

• Ironically, cutting fat out of our diets seems to have had the opposite effect: whilst we’ve been eating less fat, we’ve been getting fatter. In place of fats, many people turn to foods full of easily digested carbohydrates, or to fat-free products that replace healthy fats with sugar and high calorie, refined carbohydrates.
• In order to lose weight, you need to reduce calories. Fats are more filling, and curbing hunger can stop you from indulging in additional calories.
• The 2006 Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial showed that women on low-fat diets didn’t lose any more weight than women who followed their usual diets. Healthy fats are essential to good health The human body uses fatty acids in every essential function from building cell membranes to performing key functions in the brain, eyes, and lungs. Fat is responsible for the following functions:
• Brain – Fats compose 60% of the brain and are essential to brain function, including learning abilities, memory retention and moods. Fats are especially important in the diet of pregnant women, since they are integral in feral brain development.
• Cells – Fatty acids help your cells to stay moveable and flexible, as well as being responsible for building cell membranes.
• Heart – 60% of our heart’s energy comes from burning fats. Specific fats are also used to help keep the heart beating in a regular rhythm.
• Nerves – Fats compose the material that insulates and protects the nerves, isolating electrical impulses and speeding up their transmission.
• Lungs – Lung surfactant, which requires a high concentration of saturated fats, enables the lungs to work efficiently and prevents them from collapsing.
• Eyes – Fats are essential for optimal eye function.
• Digestion – Fats in a meal slow down the digestive process, giving the body more time to absorb nutrients. Fats help provide a constant level of energy and also keep the body satiated for a longer period of time. Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) can only be absorbed in the presence of fats.
• Organs – Fats cushion and protect internal organs.
• Immune System – Some fats ease inflammation, assisting your metabolism and immune system to stay healthy and function efficiently.

“Members” of the fat family 

To understand good and bad fats, you need to know the names of the players and some information about them.

Monounsaturated fats . . .

• Are liquid at room temperature and turn cloudy when kept in the refrigerator.
• Primary sources include plant oils like canola oil, peanut oil, and olive oil. Other good sources include avocados; nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans; and seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds.
• People following traditional Mediterranean diets, containing foods very high in monounsaturated fats like olive oil, tend to have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Polyunsaturated fats . . .

• Are liquid at room temperature as well as at cold temperatures
• Primary sources include sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils; also foods such as walnuts, flaxseed and fish.
• This fat family includes the Omega-3 group of fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and cannot be produced by the body. Omega-3 fats are in fact found in very few foods.

Saturated fats . . .

• Are usually solid at room temperature and have a high melting point
• Primary sources include animal products like red meat and whole milk dairy products. Other sources include tropical vegetable oils such as coconut oil, palm oil and foods made with these oils. Poultry and fish also contain saturated fat, but less so than red meat.
• Saturated fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol which increases your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).
• It is not necessary to eat saturated fat sources, as our bodies can produce all the saturated fat we need by consuming enough of the good fats.

Trans Fats . . .

• Trans fats result from heating liquid vegetable oils in the presence of hydrogen gas, a process called hydrogenation. Partially hydrogenating vegetable oils makes them more stable and less likely to spoil, which is very good for food manufacturers; but very bad for you.
• Primary sources of trans fat include vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
• Trans fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol which increases your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), as well as lowering HDL, or good cholesterol.

So here is the question:

Why do many experts still cringe at the mention of the ‘F’ word? The answer is simple… they are naïve!