A guide to fats (that’s right, they aren’t the devil after all!)

By Marie-Antoinette Issa |

IQS- good fats

While the idea of “healthy fats” may sound like an oxymoron, cardiac physiologist and Keys2words: 8 Week Program expert Keri Maas explains that most fats aren’t just good, they’re actually great for your health!

In case you’ve been out of the loop for the past few years, it turns out that the low-fat movement was founded on some pretty shaky science. Yep, fat isn’t the health or obesity risk we once feared.

The whole fat debate is one of the most misunderstood areas of human nutrition and has caused a lot of confusion over the years,” says Keri. “Everyone seemed to think fat intake was the major contributing factor to the obesity epidemic, heart disease and high blood pressure. It isn’t, but it’s no wonder some people are confused and still steering clear of fats in droves!”  

Of course, we’re not suggesting we should all go out and consume high-fat junk foods at will. Like anything, fats should still be eaten in moderation, and there’s one baddie we’re giving the flick altogether. Here’s a quick guide.

Polyunsaturated fats.

Where to find it: There are two main types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 and omega-6. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, along with flaxseeds and walnuts. Omega-6 fatty acids can be found in pine nuts, pistachios and raw sunflower seeds, as well as (eeek!) refined corn and soybean oil (cue alarm bells).

Why you should eat it: Omega-3 fatty acids may help improve a number of , including preventing (and even treating) heart disease, reducing blood pressure, raising HDL and lowering triglyceride levels. Omega-6 fats play an important role in stimulating skin and hair growth, brain development and maintaining reproductive health.

Consume with caution! According to Kerri, a common dietary error that can have significant health consequences is an unhealthy balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, specifically, the regular overconsumption of omega-6 fats compared to how many omega-3s you are eating. Kerri says,  “You want to focus on eating fewer omega-6-rich foods, which will naturally happen when you eat less processed food and more real food.”

goes one step further and avoids polyunsaturated fats, preferring to get their healthy benefits from other food sources. She says, “While we should be eating the omega-6 and omega-3 in a 3:1 ratio, sadly, most people today consume a ratio of 35:1. The fix to this issue? We’re told to eat omega-3 supplements. It doesn’t work. Far better to cut our omega-6 intake instead.”

Omega-6 fats also come with health risks related to . So for similar omega-6 benefits from alternative food sources, try calcium-packed offerings like dairy for healthy hair and skin, antioxidant-rich foods to promote the growth of healthy brain cells and a diet rich in folic acid, zinc and iron to keep you reproductively healthy.

Monounsaturated fats.

Where to find it: Get your monounsaturated fat fix from olive oil, macadamias and avocados.

Why you should eat it: A diet rich in monounsaturated fats comes with multiple (just ask the Mediterraneans). These include reduced risks of cancer, heart disease and stroke, as well as the possibility of weight loss.

Consume with caution! Monounsaturated fats can become unstable if heated to really high temperatures. This increases the chance of them unloading toxic chemicals and free radicals, which could cause damage to your cells if consumed.

Good quality EVOO however, can tolerate temperatures of up to 200–215 degrees Celsius and we love a good glug over our salad or drizzled on roast veg!

Saturated fats.

Where to find it: In dairy and animal products, like butter, meat and eggs, and our personal favourite, tropical oils like coconut.

Why you should eat it: Saturated fat helps us absorb minerals and fat-soluble vitamins, promotes bone strength, boosts immune function and is crucial for our cell structure. It also helps fill us up, reducing our risk of munching on unhealthy snacks between meals. Contrary to popular belief, saturated fats can also help (the bad type).

Consume with caution: This is Sarah’s preferred fat. But as fat is an extremely energy-dense source of all the macronutrients, too much of any of it (saturated included) can lead to weight gain.  

Trans fats.

Where to find it: Keri says, “Trans fats are created when some types of polyunsaturated fats are damaged due to heat. The are found mainly in processed foods, especially deep-fried foods, processed cakes, biscuits and muesli bars and foods with long shelf lives.”

Avoid at all costs! Trans fats are extremely bad for you and have been linked to a variety of health issues, including an .  “Choose to eat real food as often as you can and limit the food you eat from packets,” says Kerri. “That way you will naturally pick good fats, and avoid poor quality ones such as trans fats.”

Are you fat-phobic or is avocado your favourite food?! Check out our Keys2words: 8-week Program for drool-worthy yet healthy recipes full of satiating healthy fats.

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