Good Fat vs Bad Fat 101

Over the past few weeks a lot of messages I have been getting have been relating to the fat debate and whether being healthy, and maintaining or loosing weight means cutting out fats.
For years, we have been told that following a low-fat diet is the key to maintaining health, losing weight and managing ailments. God knows who was put in charge to spread this message but it started some where. Probably in the scrunchie wearing, prawn cocktail eating 80s, but it is totally wrong. We need fat to metabolise food, to fuel our brains and help us absorb nutrients so leaving it behind is not an option, what you CAN do is to add to your diet supplements from to help you loose that extra fat that it is indeed not necessary and with a healthy process. 
So I am going to pop the fat bubble and share a little fun facts about fat. Where to get it, the way to cook with it and how to eat it to get the best of it in and the worst of it out.
Good Fat vs Bad Fat 101
In the pursuit of the bikini body it might seem like a good option to cut down on eating fat, because it is high in calories, but in fact eating fats can be good as in small does they provide the body with many essential nutrients, like vitamins A and D that help maintain health. 
Fats are also where we get the aptly named essential fatty acids that the body can’t make itself, which are essential to physical and emotional health.

The Four Fats

There are four different types of fat. These are saturated fats (primarily from animal sources), trans fats and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The last two being the fats most beneficial.

 Good Fat vs Bad Fat 101

For anyone not sure where to start and which to cut back on, I have compiled a list for helpful ingredients that I use in cooking and those I tend to avoid wherever possible, to make life a little easier. Its a bit of a long list, but hopefully you will find it helpful

Good Cooking Fats

Coconut Oil

Benefits: Although coconut oil is a saturated fat, it is an exception to the rule as it contains a unique combination of fatty acids can have profound positive effects on health. Including being a natural anti inflammatory and antibacterial.

How to use: Best for cooking. Can be heated at higher teperatures. I use it in sweet dishes like pancakes, for baking, or stirred into porridge or blended into smoothies to add creaminess.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Benefits: Good quality cold pressed olive oil is a monounsaturated fat and a great source of many vitamins. It also has profound health benefits, as the Mediterranean diet indicates

How to use: Because cooking changes the molecular structure of the oil, it is best for cooking at low temperatures only, such as gentle sauteing of vegetables or in marinades.

Flaxseed, Hemp, Sesame and Avocado Oil

Benefits: These oils are all polyunsaturates and include natural omega-3 fatty acids. Aside from being great for skin, hair and nails, Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to provide a wide range of health benefits including being good to keep your heart happy.

How to use: Because they are the least stable of fats, they are not good to cook with (it changes their structure) Instead they can be used in dressings, dips or cold food preparation. They can also be taken as supplements. I often take a a tablespoon of flaxseed oil first thing in the morning before I eat. I find it really improves my digestion.

Good Fat vs Bad Fat 101

Oily Fish

Benefits: These are great sources of protein that also are high in omega 3 fatty acids.Aside from being delicious and wonderful ingredients to cook with, there is a lot of new research suggesting these mega omegas found in oily fish have beneficial effects on reducing inflammation in the body and releasing happy hormones that fight against depression.

Fish to choose: Mackerel and salmon are too classic oily fish which can be prepared in many ways. Some of my favourite dishes containing them are also the easiest to make. Fish is a quick ingredients to cook, so it great for speedy dishes. Two of my favourites are my super simple smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and also this delicious speedy sesame crusted asian mackerel fishcakes.

Organic and Grass Fed Meat

Benefits: Despite meat often being condemned as a source of the negative saturated fats, a small amount of of good quality organic or grass fed meat is actually very beneficial for the body. Grass fed basically the means the animal spends most of their time on pastures eating a diet of grass rather than a mix of feed made of soy and corn. Grass-fed meat is another great source of omega 3 fatty acids and also CLA. In fact, a piece of grass-fed meat has just as much omega 3 goodness as a piece of salmon.

Meat to Choose: All pasture raised animals are good to eat. Secondary cuts of meat, that take longer to cook and are good for stews, (like my ox cheek stew) and tagines (like my lamb and sweet potato tagine) Although for the most part I tend to go for leaner cuts, such as loin, chops and steaks. These are far quicker to cook and work well for everyday dishes.

Good Fat vs Bad Fat 101

Nuts and Seeds

Benefits: Nuts are a great and easy way of incorporating beneficial fats into your diet. They can be used in many dishes, adding wonderful crunch to salads and as soup toppings, but also make a handy snack for moments on the go. I often keep a little bag of them in my handbag so I am not tempted by more sugary snack foods when I feel peckish. One thing to be aware of in nuts that are fried in oil and coated in salt. Go for simple plain roasted nuts or raw ones, if you can.

Nuts and Seeds to choose: Some nuts are more beneficial than others. One of the best is walnuts, which are the highest in omega 3s. I also favour almonds, hazelnuts and brazil nuts (which contain seratonin, the happy hormone). I tend to avoid snacking on peanuts and pistachios (both I find can trigger my IBS) but I do use them in dishes, when I would eat a smaller quantity.

Good Fat vs Bad Fat 101

Bad Fats

Processed Oils

To make it easy I have made a concise list of the ones to avoid. These are all partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, known as trans fats, that the body can’t metabolise. You can find them in many pre-baked pastries, supermarket cakes and fake cheese. For the most part they are formerly unsaturated fats which have been heated to such a degree that they change and become harmful for the body.

  • Corn
  • Canola
  • Soy bean
  • Safflower oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Margarine

Grain Fed Meat

It might sound mad, but what you feed to a cow can affect whether the meat is higher in omega 3 or 6. Grain fed cows tend to be fattened up with feeds made of soy or corn grains and given hormones to encourage speedy growth before they are slaughtered. This meat is often a lot redder than the darker more purple colour of good quality, pasture raised beef because the animals suffer with inflammation.

Processed Dairy

If you look at a full fat and a no fat pot of yoghurt on the shelf the difference between the two is one of them has been left in its whole, natural state and the other has been treated to make it a certain way. Removing the fat from a product is unnatural and involves a process that changes the product and the way we digest it. Most people don’t know it, but that the fat that is present in dairy is what helps us break down in our bodies. Milk sugars in the body, are not easy to digest without them.

Another thing worth noting is that the most hormone-pumped animals are certainly dairy cows. From antibiotics to growth hormones, rbST. These are unnatural and highly inflammatory for the body, so it is important to buy organic wherever you can.

  1. Do you have any thoughts on Sesame oil and hemp oil? I use both quite a bit for dressings. Thanks in advance

    1. Hey, thanks for mentioning them. I have added them to the list of good poly-unsaturate fats .
      So lovely in dressings and cold prep foods. Just not to cook with 😉

  2. Hello, I found this really helpful! Do you personally eat full-fat yoghurt and milk or would you choose another alternative such as almond products?

  3. Hi Tess!

    Firstly can I just say, I love your blog and your philosophy towards food.. I’ve only just discovered it – hence why I’m back reading all the posts!

    Secondly, it’s actually a really common myth (thankfully!) that we pump our non-organic dairy cows full of antibiotic feed additives and hormonal growth promotors; in fact it is banned to do so in the UK (sadly can’t say the same for the cows in the US) . As a side point, any veterinary treatment given to a dairy cow (or other animal farmed for food production) comes with a withdrawal limit (i.e. the number of days/weeks/months the that have to pass between the end of treatment and the meat or milk going into the food chain) to prevent harmful residues ending up in our food. All this being said, I do completely understand why people chose to buy organic products for many reasons – apologies, veterinary lecture over!

    Lastly.. thanks so much for all your advice and recipes – I’m super excited to start trying them out 🙂 Feeling inspired 🙂

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