Want healthy skin, balanced hormones and delicious guilt-free snacks? There’s a fat for that.
There’s no need to fear fat following years of confusion brought on by low-fat diet fads, says nutritionist Alison Tehan.
But understanding the different types of fats and how they can fuel your body – and mind – is key to making healthy choices.
Why good fats are good for us
“Every single cell in our body requires fatty acids for their structure,” Alison says.
“They help absorb essential vitamins D, E, K and A, as well as maintain healthy skin, keep us warm and protect our organs and nerves.”
And it’s not all physical.
Good fats can reduce the risk of dementia and reverse symptoms of depression and anxiety.
“Omega 3 fatty acids are vital for the maintenance of normal brain function throughout life – our brains are almost 60 per cent fat,” says Alison.
The three types of healthy fats
Nurture your body with the top trio of monounsaturated, saturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats come from avocados, olives and nuts; saturated is found in coconut oil and butter; and polyunsaturated is broken down into omega 3 and omega 6 fats.
“Our bodies cannot produce these omega fats, so we must get them from food,” Alison explains.
Get omega-6 oils from nuts, seeds and oils, and omega-3 from oily fish, flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds and algae.
Fats to avoid
Not all fats are created equal, and Alison says there’s a group that should be limited or avoided if possible.
“Trans fats increase the amount of harmful cholesterol in the blood and create inflammation,” she says.
“When people consume high amounts they tend to have an increased risk of poor memory and cognitive decline. It can also affect heart health and can alter the microbiome.”
Trans fats are used to prolong shelf life, and are found in many snacks, baked goods and fried foods.
“Choose unprocessed foods that don’t come from packets,” Alison advises.
“Always try to eat real food as often as you can.”
How to get good fats in your diet
Alison favours a Mediterranean-style diet, packed with good quality olive oil, oily fish and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Simple dietary swaps include:
– Snack on a handful of raw nuts over biscuits
– Use avocado instead of margarine
– Replace cream or ice cream with plain or Greek yoghurt
Good fats are good news for hayfever sufferers, too. Eating omega 3-rich foods such as salmon, tuna and anchovies can help boost immunity during the allergy season.
“Add some turmeric and ginger for taste and an extra anti-inflammatory boost,” Alison says.
Alison Tehan’s tips to get enough good oil
Cook with extra virgin olive oil: It’s high in good fats and antioxidants.
Eat omega 3-rich fish: Your skin will look and feel good – no red bumps or dryness.
Add wholefood fats: Add a handful of fats such as avocado, roasted walnuts or feta cheese to each meal.
Dress a salad: Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on salads or roast vegetables.
Add a spoon of ground flaxseed to your breakfast each day: It’s high in omega-3 fats and also good for hormone health.