Getting to grips with dietary fat

Yesterday’s post looked at research from The Fat Panel which reveals when it comes to dietary fat, most of us are baffled.

It’s easy to see why too. While watching BBC Three’s 5 Really Disgusting Foods last night, Alex Riley looked into the truly disgusting range of ingredients certain low-budget brands will use to produce food as cheaply as possible. The subject came up of the use of trans fats such as hydrogenated fat in foods and my other half immediately popped up with ‘I’ve never understood what trans fats actually are’, lucky for him, I was able to tell him exactly what they were as a result of the research I’ve been doing for my latest blog posts – handy eh!

So, back to the topic in hand…

Let’s look at the bad fats first. The main culprits are: Saturated Fat & Trans Fats

Saturated fat is typically found in foods derived from animals such as full fat dairy products including butter, full fat cheese and cream, fatty meats and meat products. Baked goods such as cakes, biscuits and pastries are also high in saturated fat. Excessive intakes of saturated fat can increase cholesterol levels, a risk factor for heart disease. Current figures suggest that, on average, we are consuming 20% more saturated fats than experts recommend.

Trans fats or trans fatty acids in our diet are mainly derived from two sources. Trans fats are formed when liquid oils are hardened by a process called partial hydrogenation. The other source of trans fats is naturally occurring in some meat and dairy food. The most common dietary sources of trans fats in the UK are: biscuits, cakes, meat pies and pastries. Trans fats raise bad blood cholesterol and reduce good blood cholesterol – this again increases the risk of heart disease. And to think a quarter of those surveyed by The Fat People thought they should be eating more trans fats!

Some fat in the diet is important for good health.

The good fats are: Polyunsaturated Fats and Monounsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats are classified in two types – Omega 3 and Omega 6. Considered essential because they cannot be made in the body, therefore these fatty acids must be obtained through the diet. Omega 6 fats are mainly found in sunflower, corn and most other pure vegetable oils, and products made with these oils such as nuts, seeds and oils. Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats help lower bad blood pressure when it replaces saturated fats in the diet, which helps reduce the risk of developing heart disease. There are two types of Omega 3 fats: one type is via vegetable oils such as flaxseed oil and rapeseed oil and some nuts, the other type is found in oil-rich fish such as sardines and salmon. Like Omega 6, Omega 3, particularly from fish oils, is known to help keep the heart and circulation healthy.

The second good fat is Monounsaturated fats which are found in most types of nuts, avocado pears, rapeseed oil, olive oil and products made from these. Monounsaturated fat does not raise cholesterol and evidence shows that it can help lower bad cholesterol levels when it replaces saturated fat in the diet.

By following a balanced healthy diet with the occasional treat thrown in and learning to become a little more savvier with what you are regularly putting in your body – these small steps could go a long way to better health.

I hope this post has proved informative and simplified the murky waters of dietary fat for you.

Please feel free to comment away on this one – be great to hear from you…










Dietary Fat – What does it all mean?

New research by The Fat Panel has revealed that when it comes to knowing the difference between good and bad fats, and understanding why dietary fat is important for our health – us Brits find it all a little too confusing.

One in five of us thinks that saturated fat is a good fat, while one in four thinks we’re eating the right amount of saturated fats. And when it comes to trans fats we are completely baffled. More than a third of us think trans fats (TFAs) are good fats, and just under half of us worryingly think that TFAs are essential fatty acids. And as if that wasn’t bad enough – one in four actually think they should be eating more TFAs.

More than a quarter of the 1,000 people questioned by The Fat Panel did not understand that polyunsaturated fats are good fats, just under half realised that monounsaturated fats are good fats and one in five surveyed did not realise that we need some fat as part of a healthy diet.

Why do we need fat? Dietary fat in sensible amounts is essential for tissue repair, healthy skin, protecting our internal organs, delivering and transporting vitamins around the body, hormone metabolism plus aiding normal growth and development. 

I’ll look more closely at what each type of fat is, where good fats can be found, and which bad fats and their associated foods should be minimised for better health in my next blog post tomorrow. Otherwise this post will go on for miles and miles…!





Vitamin B12

Recent scary reports in the press and on TV have suggested vegetarians and especially vegans should give their dietary options a rethink as Vitamin B12 can only be found in meat as a food source. As a vegetarian who could never go back to eating meat again, I wanted to look further into this and find out where Vitamin B12 can be found and also why the vitamin is fundamental to good health.

The Food Standards Agency says: “If you eat meat, fish (salmon and cod) or dairy foods then you should be able to get enough vitamin B12 from your diet.”

Other recommended food sources which are vegetarian-friendly include: milk, cheese, eggs, yeast extract plus fortified breakfast cereals. As the vitamin is not found in vegetables, fruit or grains – vegans can become deficient and may require a daily vitamin b12 supplement. However, many vegan foods are supplemented with vitamin B12 so it is important to check food contents to ensure you are getting the right daily amount.

Vitamin B12 has a number of important functions and is an essential nutrient in our diet: it makes red blood cells which keep the nervous system healthy, helps to release energy from the food we eat and is also needed to absorb folic acid.

Food for thought indeed.

Good to know

Thought I’d write a little follow-up on the celebrity health Q&A piece I’m currently working on for Your Healthy Living. I think many of us, myself included, are under the illusion that celebrities have it easy when it comes to keeping in shape and being healthy takes little to no effort at all. When speaking with Gizzi, it was very refreshing to hear that she goes through phases of feeling healthy and though she currently rates herself as an 8.5 out of 10, this is not always the case as she goes through six month phases where she exercises more depending on the seasons. Gizzi often tops up her diet with vitamins and supplements, was happy to admit like all women she has times where she thinks ‘sod it’ and has a little of what she fancies and revealed because she loves food so much she has learnt to eat well to maintain a healthy weight.

There’s a lot I could learn from Gizzi’s ethos on indulging occasionally only – I allow myself on most days a daily indulgence of something naughty – usually a packet of crisps – which is a terribly unhealthy yet yummy fatty salty treat- and actually think there is a slight addiction on the crisp front as I often crave a packet. Any hypnotists out there that can help – do please contact me. I adore eating fruit and vegetables and being vegetarian I do eat well most of the time, but crisps are a major black spot in my diet. Must do better…