If adopting a low-fat diet has health and weight-loss benefits, then logic dictates a no-fat diet will have an even more positive impact in these areas. Unfortunately, logic would be very wrong in this instance because we all need a certain amount of dietary fat.
As discussed below, it’s much more important to adopt a strategy which looks at the beneficial role some fats play, and monitor your fat intake accordingly.Whilst a high-fat intake encourages weight gain and increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, not all fats are harmful.
Fats for a healthy lifestyle
Dietary fat contains a store of essential fatty acids, which are nutrients the body cannot produce, as well as many vitamins – especially vitamins A, D and E – and provides both a source of energy and a means of storing it.
In addition, fats are needed to promote healthy hair and skin, sustain your body temperature, assist cell functions, and protect vital bodily organs from harm. Moreover, fat also serves to protect your body from disease by trapping harmful elements in fat tissue for subsequent disposal.
The fat present in our food falls into three distinct categories:
The British Dietetic Association believe most of us consume around 20 percent more saturated fat than we should, raising our blood cholesterol in the process. The recommended maximum daily consumption of saturated fats is 30g for men and 20g for women.
Typical sources of saturated fats include butter, cheese, cream, meat products, fatty cuts of meat, savoury snacks, chocolate, and also pastries, cakes and biscuits.
So-called trans fats occur infrequently in nature, but are present at low levels in meat and diary products, for example. More often, trans fats are artificially produced through the hydrogenation of oils, known as hydrogenated fats. In the UK, most supermarket products are routinely processed to remove hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Though high amounts of trans fat in your diet can be harmful, for example, causing excess levels of ‘bad’ blood cholesterol – low-density lipoproteins – the NHS believe that the majority of UK citizens generally consume relatively small amounts of trans fats – usually around 50 per cent of the recommended maximum.
These are much healthier fats and tend to be oily, whereas saturated fats are more solid. A diet containing unsaturated fats can raise the amount of ‘good’ cholesterol – high-density lipoproteins – in the bloodstream, whilst simultaneously reducing ‘bad’ cholesterol levels.
This group of fats includes both mono-unsaturated fats contained in canola and olive oils, for example, and poly-unsaturated fats present in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna. This latter group of unsaturated fats is rich in omega-3 fatty acids known to promote a regular heart rhythm and inhibit blood clotting.
Currently, the British Heart Foundation advises that our diet should include ‘two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily‘. As many discover, products which have had the fat removed have generally had the taste removed too! Even worse, food manufacturers often mask the poor taste by adding calorie-boosting salt, sugar and flour.
Though experts believe fats should account for no more than 30 percent of your diet, just remember some fats are diet essentials most of us actually need to consume more frequently.