Following on from the recent news about the dangers of sugars in the diet, saturated fats have now hit the headlines.
Researchers from the British Heart Foundation looked at data from 72 studies with more than 600,000 participants.
And contrary to the health guidelines that the consumer has been given for years, there is no evidence that changing the type of fat you eat from “bad” saturated to “healthier” polyunsaturated cuts heart risk.
We have been lead to believe that eating any kind of saturated fat whether from butter, biscuits, fatty meats, sausages and bacon, and dairy should be avoided at all costs. Instead we have been encouraged to eat more unsaturated fats such as olive and sunflower oils and other non-animal fats in an effort to improve our cholesterol levels.
Investigators at the University of Cambridge, writing in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found no evidence to support the advice that polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) offer heart protection.
However, trans fats such as those found in processed and ready meals, biscuits, pastries, sauces and margarines and spreads were strongly associated with risk of heart diseases. The authors recommend that these should be regulated and avoided.
Researcher Dr Rajiv Chowdhury said: “These are interesting results that potentially stimulate new lines of scientific inquiry and encourage careful reappraisal of our current nutritional guidelines.”
He added that eating excess carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, potatoes etc or refined sugar and salts in processed foods should be discouraged.
“Refined carbohydrates, sugar and salt are all potentially harmful for vascular health,” he said.
Why do we need fats?
Undoubtedly more research needs to be done regarding the role of all types of fat in heart health but it is important to know that a fat free diet is not healthy at all:
We need fats for our brain health; we cannot absorb fat soluble vitamins A, E, D and K without fat in our diet; fats can provide us with a good source of energy and help us to feel full for longer so we are less likely to overeat; we need fats for chemical reactions involved in growth, immune function, reproduction and other aspects of metabolism; fats give food flavour which is why food manufacturers have to add salt, sugar and flavourings to ‘low fat’ or ‘fat free’ foods.
So what is the confused consumer to do?
- Avoid trans fats by cutting out processed foods as outlined above
- Inform yourself of hidden sugars in foods by reading nutrition labels (see my blog: http://www.lucksyardclinic.com/britain-tops-unhealthy-snacks/)
- Include fats such as nuts, seeds including chia and flaxseeds which all contain fibre, vitamins and minerals (think Mediterrranean diet: http://www.lucksyardclinic.com/going-nuts-nuts/)
- Make sure you get good amounts of omega 3 fats (oily fish, pasture fed meats, organic eggs, seeds) which are beneficial for brain health and have an anti-inflammatory action in the body.
- Eat good quality meats and poultry which provide us with important sources of protein and minerals such as iron.
- Opt for slow release carbs swopping white rice, pasta, bread etc for wholemeal versions or try rye and spelt breads which are a better source of fibre and vitamins.
- Remember that vegetables and salads are sources of healthy carbohydrates (white potatoes are considered a starch so try to reduce the amount you have in your diet).
- Look out for refined vegetable and seeds oils which may contain sources of trans fats especially when you heat them to high temperatures. Use small amounts of butter on your bread or try using a cold pressed extra virgin coconut or olive oil instead.
- Coconut oil is suitable for cooking because it is made up of medium chain triglycerides that are less likely to be damaged by heat and can be used as a source of energy for the body.
If you are feeling confused about all this ‘new’ advice and need some help to see where you could improve your diet, why do not come and see Pippa Mitchell, our nutritional therapist. She can advise you on how to make simple changes to your diet that can lead to big changes in your health.
Call us on 01483 527 945 to make an appointment