Walk down any aisle of your supermarket and you'll see everything from fat-free yoghurts to fat-free biscuits and ready meals. Sounds like heaven right? Getting to eat all the "bad" foods you would like and not having to feel guilty for it. Unfortunately, as good as that sounds, the fats that these foods usually contain are often replaced with other ingredients that can be even worse for you than some fat!
Firstly let's talk about "fats". Here is a quick rundown of the main types of fats:
Monounsaturated Fat: Monounsaturated can have a positive effect on your heart when eaten in moderation and should be used as a replacement for saturated and trans fat in your diet. They can also help to reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood. Foods that are rich in monounsaturated fats are olives, peanut oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.
Polyunsaturated Fat: Polyunsaturated fats can also help to reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood, which can reduce your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Oils which are rich in polyunsaturated fats can also contribute Vitamin E to your diet, which is an important antioxidant vitamin. Like monounsaturated fats, these should replace the saturated and trans fat in your diet. One type of polyunsaturated fat which is particularly beneficial for your heart are omega-3 fatty acids. Foods that are particularly rich in polyunsaturated fats are sesame and sunflower oils, fatty fish such as salmon, flaxseeds and walnuts.
Saturated Fat: This is the type of fat that comes mainly from animal sources of food, such as fatty meat and full-fat dairy products, like cheese and yoghurt. This type of fat can raise your LDL (bad) blood cholesterol levels, which in turn, can increase your risk of heart disease. Eating too much saturated fat may also increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
However, our body does in fact need small amounts of saturated fat for healthy brain and lung function, liver health and to support our immune system. It is important to remember though, not to overindulge in foods that are high in this type of fat.
Trans Fat: Trans fats are fats that are created from oils that have undergone a food processing method called partial hydrogenation. The process of partial hydrogenation means that the oils become easier to cook with and they are less likely to spoil than naturally occurring oils. This type of fat is generally solid at room temperature, and is known to increase the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood and also lower HDL (good) cholesterol. The main food sources you will find these fats in are margarine, snack foods, fast foods and ready-prepared foods (that naughty stuff that we love to munch on). Trans fats may occur naturally in some food, like beef, lamb and dairy foods, but only in very, very small amounts.
Before the creation of "fat-free" foods it was quickly realised that if we continued to eat so much saturated and trans fats, our society could be one heavily filled with heart disease and obesity. Although we need small amounts of saturated fat in our diets, people tend to get carried away and overindulge. Fat-free foods were created in order to ease the mind of consumers who were worried about their weight, having been told they need to reduce their "fat" intake to stay healthy.
The bad thing?
"Fat free" food can also mean taste-free. And to compensate for the lack of flavour, manufacturers often add sugars, refined carbs, preservatives and chemicals to make things taste better and improve their consistency. So while these products may be lower in calories, they can often contain refined carbs which spike your blood glucose levels and can get stored as fat if not utilised properly.
Next time you are in the supermarket, before you pop that "fat free" food item into your basket, ignore the big labels and have a look at the ingredients. No doubt it is filled with tons of sugar! I know so many people that like to use these foods to "treat" themselves, and if they eat a bit more they think it is okay because they are "fat free". This can be doing soo much more harm than good to your weight-loss journey! In saying that, I know we can't eat clean 100% of the time and it IS OKAY to have a treat once in awhile. However, I recommend to have healthy fat food items in small portions. Healthy fat is good for you!
It is best to eat foods mainly from the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated categories, as these fats are also essential to maintain healthy bodies! My favourites are grilled salmon, smashed avocado on rye toast and a handful of nuts as a snack. If you choose to have some foods that contain saturated fat make sure to watch the portion sizes and how often you eat them.
Remember if you are not sure about something always check the label and choose the most wholesome and natural option you can!