‘Fat’ is one of those words that provokes a negative reaction in any healthy eater. It’s understandable. Obesity has become an increasing problem in western culture, as has heart disease, and fats have had a lot of bad press over the last few decades. What many people miss is that not all fats are bad, some fats, in fact, are essential to a healthy diet.
Fat can present as much of a problem by its absence as its presence. People on a vegan diet, for example, often struggle to get the right amount of fats into their daily regime. Understanding the difference between healthy fats and unhealthy fats and knowing what sort of fat intake makes for a healthy proportion can help people on any diet stay healthy.
Healthy Foods Still Contain Fat
When most people think of the word ‘fat’, they envision the kind of fats associated with a bad diet. The crackling on a piece of roast pork or a plump sausage roll probably come to mind. It probably comes as a surprise to find that these foods can be part of a healthy diet. The main problem, however, is proportion.
Per day, the average man should eat no more than thirty grams of saturated fat. The figure is even less for women, at twenty grams per day. This means that while eating the fat along the edge of a lamb chop is probably not a great idea, the smaller amount of fat included in the meaty part of the chop can be part of a healthy meal, as long as it’s in proportion to the other foods consumed that day.
Other fats, such as the unsaturated fat in fish and avocados, are good to have in a diet because they provide energy and nutrients, and can even keep blood cholesterol levels down. Some people avoid non-saturated fats, essentially lumping all fats together, but this is a mistake. Unsaturated fat helps the body absorb vitamins and provide essential fatty acids. Good sources of unsaturated fats include nuts, seeds and olive oil.
‘High Fat’ and ‘Low Fat’ – That They Really Mean
In the UK, a ‘traffic light’ system has been adopted to help people identify good and bad foods. For fats, the red traffic light label is triggered by foods that contain more than twenty grams of fat per hundred grams. Foods that get the green light contain three grams of fat or less per hundred grams.
The story doesn’t end there, though. Of those three grams of fat per hundred in a low-fat sample, only half should be saturated fat if the levels are to be considered low. It’s also important to note that a low fat food isn’t necessarily a healthy food. Something labelled low-fat on the main part of the label may just be lower in fat than other brands, and still relatively high in comparison with other foods. Other items may be lacking in fat, but high in sugar, which will mean a high calorie content.