Fats are definitely up there as one of the most talked about in the fitness industry – often conflicting between the idea of whether they’re sabotaging diets or helping athletes achieve their most desirable physiques.
Here’s the thing, many people see the word fat and immediately assume its something to stay away from.
Fat gets a bit of a bad rep but its actually pretty essential; it coats membranes, insulates tissues and protects vital organs, but its important to know which fat to eat and which to avoid!
Types of fats?
It’s important to first distinguish the different types of fats; there are three main types of major dietary fat that are most commonly talked about:
✓ Trans fat
Saturated fats are easy to distinguish as they’re solid at room temperature, these are mostly found in red meat and coconut/palm oil. Although saturated fats aren’t necessarily bad for you, they don’t offer the same health benefits as unsaturated fat. It’s important to not over-do it and eat more red meat than normal – an alternative healthier protein source would be fish, lentils or beans.
These are liquid at room temperature – consisting of oils mostly from plants, for example corn/peanut oil. There are also monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are considered the healthy fats, these are found in avocados, nuts and sunflower oil – of which are questioned to lower blood cholesterol and potentially lower the risk for heart disease.
Most commonly known as man-made fats, produced by a chemical process known as hydrogenation; where hydrogen is added to liquid oil, often to harden the structure.
This makes it a popular ingredient for food manufacturers as it makes the shelf life of foods last longer and improves the taste.
They are most commonly found in low-fat butter, frozen dinners, fried food, pastries, cakes, bread and lard. Delicious!
However, not all trans-fat are man made…
Naturally occurring trans-fats can be found in animal-based products, with this fat produced in the guts of animals! As off-putting as that may sound, these do not hold the same health-damaging effects of the artificial kind – yet that’s not to say eat 20 steaks a day!
The effect of trans-fats in the body
Diets high in trans fats can potentially correlate with problems such as:
✓ Heart disease
✓ Weight gain, specifically around the abdominal area
✓ Memory loss
✓ An increase in bad cholesterol and a decrease in the good cholesterol:
Consumption of trans fats are also often associated with inflammation, type two diabetes and insulin resistance.
Look out for processed foods, commercially prepared baked and fried foods as these are the main culprit for trans fats. They may also be labelled as ‘partially hydrogenated’ on the label!
Trans Fats | Common Foods to Avoid
✓ None home-made pizzas
✓ Frozen cooked meals
✓ Anything battered or fried
✓ Cake mixes/frosting
✓ Ice cream and non dairy creamers
✓ Cookies and biscuits
I know what you’re all thinking… basically most things that taste great!
I’m sure we all know that these foods are not good for us anyway and we should be consuming them as little as possible.
Complete elimination of trans fats would be difficult as they are found naturally in small amounts in some foods – the ideal is to have a smaller ratio in them, especially if you’re trying to budge some excess weight or feel a little healthier!
Take Home Message
Here’s the good news: if you’re into your health and fitness then you already know that ‘junk’ food is bad for you. Limiting your intake of processed and packaged foods would be the best way to keep your intake low.
Try and eat lots of fresh fruit and raw vegetables, avoid fried foods, maybe opt for real butter instead of margarine spreads and avoid fast food as much as possible – surely nothing beats a tasty home-made meal?