Whilst eating fat is an essential part of a healthy diet, it’s important to eat the right kind (and in the right state) because some fats will contribute to your health, whilst others will detract from it. Knowing the difference is crucial to preventing disease and living a healthy lifestyle.
Here’s a quick guide to the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to dietary fats. This is definitely a ‘bookmarkable’ page!
Healthy fats can be broken down into two categories: unsaturated & saturated fats. Although saturated fats were once considered unhealthy and artery-clogging, lots of recent research has shown that they too can be beneficial as part of a healthy diet. They can be a necessary stepping stone in blunting cravings for carbs such as bread and biscuits.
Good fats are high in omega 3, can lower inflammation, improve heart health, help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, boost cognitive function, improve the appearance of your skin, support satiety and promote weight loss. Look for ingredients that are unprocessed and naturally high in fats. For example: avocados, full-fat dairy, olive oil, coconuts, fatty fish and nuts.
For medium and high-heat cooking, stable fats are your best bet:
- Duck & goose fat
- Chicken fat
- Pork lard
- Beef tallow
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
Monounsaturated oils are best used cold, as dressings or on a very low heat:
- Extra virgin olive oil (high phenolic if possible)l
- Hazelnut oil
- Macadamia oil
- Almond oil
Polyunsaturated fats are the most unstable oils that can be easily destroyed by heat; they should only be consumed in cold-pressed form and should never be used for cooking. They are excellent for flavouring dishes after they have been cooked.
- Sesame oil
- Walnut oil
- Flax-seed oil
- Rice bran oil
The fats listed below are typically industrialised and highly refined oils that go through high-heat and chemical processing, resulting in a high omega-6 content which can lead to chronic inflammation, disease and weight gain. They are often found in processed, fried foods and restaurant food. Avoid these as much as possible and pay attention to the ingredients list on packaged foods.
- Sunflower oil
- Soybean oil
- Canola oil - aka Rapeseed oil
- Corn oil
- Vegetable oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Safflower oil
- Peanut oil
- Palm kernel oil
- Vegetable oil spreads
- Cottonseed oil
Trans fats, the worst fats of all, should be avoided at all costs. These fats are often added to foods through a process of hydrogenation and are so chemical-laden that they can barely pass as food, in my opinion. Trans fats are typically found in highly-processed fatty foods such as crackers, cakes, donuts, pastries and processed nut butters. Trans fats are detrimental to your health and a study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that each 2 percent increase in calories consumed from trans fats nearly doubled the risk of coronary heart disease.
- Vegetable shortening
- Partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oil
- High stearic acid or stearic-rich fat