Throughout the Change Your Health Direction (CYHD) programme I have noticed that many people have a completely misguided perception about fats! Through powerful advertising, we have been conditioned to believe that if we want to lose weight we should avoid fat and the ‘low-fat’ diet industry thrives on this. Fat-free and low-fat products are everywhere but they are most often not the healthiest option and can actually hinder weight loss and affect our health in the long term.
Firstly, fat-free and low-fat products are often full of sugar, artificial sweeteners and other ‘nasties’ to help compensate for the lack of fat. The sugar is then just converted into fat in the body anyway and, as the product is far less satiating due to the lack of fats, we need to eat a lot more of these foods to feel full! It is true that we need to avoid certain fats in order to achieve optimum weight and health, those being saturated fats and trans fats. These can be found in vegetable oils, pastries, biscuits, fried foods, confectionery etc.
However, eating the right types of fats is crucial for optimum health! ‘Essential fatty acids’ are fats that our bodies need in order to function normally; they cannot be manufactured in the body so we must include them in our diets. They are the building blocks that the body uses to manufacture hormones and cell membranes, as well as having a natural anti-inflammatory effect which can help to alleviate symptoms of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. They can also protect us against heart disease and stroke as they play a role in thinning the blood. The list of benefits is endless and low levels have been linked with numerous psychiatric disorders (as well as many other chronic conditions) including depression so fats really can help make you happy! I just cannot stress the importance of these good fats enough; cutting them out of your diet will be detrimental to your long term health.
The two main essential fatty acids that need to be included in your diet are omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The typical western diet usually supplies us with sufficient quantities of omega-6 fatty acids as they are found in meat, dairy produce and eggs so they are not usually cause for concern. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and herring. Avocados, nuts and nut butters are other ways to increase our intake of healthy fats and they are incredibly tasty and satisfying.
I always recommend the inclusion of a high quality omega-3 supplement where possible and we have some great products at LloydsPharmacy, my favourite being Revive Active Krill Oil. This is a high quality form of omega-3 fatty acids because they are sourced from a pure environment, in a sustainable and traceable manner and naturally contain a powerful anti-oxidant called astaxanthin which helps to protect the quality of the oil. They are much more readily absorbed by the body, compared to other omega-3 supplements and there is no fishy after-taste or reflux associated with them. Overall they are a very worthwhile investment in your long-term health! Check out the range of Krill Oil Products on our website or speak to any of our in-store colleagues for information on which product is best for you.
And finally, just in relation to cooking with fats – always use a heat-stable fat such as coconut oil, preferably organic and unrefined. Other fats such as sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, olive oil should not be used at high temperatures as they are converted to free radicals which can have massive health implications!
Written by Avril Reilly, Pharmacist and Change Your Health Direction coach in LloydsPharmacy Carlow.