Those that try to stay up to date with the latest health news, are still often confused about nutrition research findings and recommendations. One of the most controversial breakthroughs in recent years was that fat could be good for us. That’s right, a previous curse word of the slimming world, the ‘F word’ to the health-conscious!
We’ve now got a better understanding than ever of the role fat plays in our diet. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, we’re going to explain why fat is making a comeback. One thing you need to get your head around before reading this: ditch the fat prejudice – not all fats are the same! Read on to discover what fat is, why you need it and how including more good fats in your diet could make you happier and healthier – really!
A Big Fat Timeline
Over the past few decades fat has been given a bad reputation – it’s the black sheep of the family, the oddball, the guilty pleasure that we enjoy but never speak of. But why?
There’s a few things working against the popularity of fat:
- It’s extremely energy dense – fat contains 9 calories per gram, that’s over double the energy provided by protein or carbohydrate (both at 4 calories per gram). The repercussions of this are that eating only a small amount of a food which is high in fat could still provide a great deal of calories.
- Body image – lots of us use the word fat as a descriptor of our blubbery bits, rather than a nutrient name.
- Negative association – lots of foods which are high in fat are heavily processed and bad for us, and it’s difficult to change that perception. In the same way it’s hard to get your head around fruit being high in sugar, it’s hard to think that including more fat in your diet could be good for you – because the most common sources aren’t.
So, fat has some explaining to do, and so do we. It may be the heavyweight of the nutrient world, but fat is essential to a healthy diet – and has many vital functions within the human body.
Getting your Fat Facts Right
Fat is one of three macronutrients, alongside protein and carbohydrate. It is essential for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. It’s also a major source of energy and, when stored on the body, protects and insulates our major organs.
Much like many nutrients, the term fat is used to describe a family of substances, not just one. Whether you’ve got a short, medium or long attention span, we need to get a few things straight before we start!
Fats can be classified as unsaturated, trans or saturated:
- Unsaturated Fats – as a whole are better for us, they’re found in mostly found in oil from plants and work in the body to raise ‘good’ cholesterol and lower ‘bad’ cholesterol Omega-3 fatty acids belong to this group and have also been praised for their heart-health promoting virtues.
- Trans Fats – produced by a chemical process called hydrogenation, trans fats are bad news – they’ve been shown to increase ‘bad’ cholesterol levels and have been linked with coronary heart disease. You’ll typically find trans fats in processed junk foods.
- Saturated Fats – several health authorities recommend lowering your intake of these, mainly because of studies which have linked them to heart disease. However, ongoing research is set to reverse decades of dietary advice by suggesting this may not be the case.
MCTs: Single-Handedly Raising the Profile of Fats Everywhere!
Like a Russian doll, there are different kinds of fats within saturated fats, within fat! They can be sub-classified into short chain, medium chain and long chain fats (depending on their structure).
Most studies comparing saturated with unsaturated fats focus on long chain fats, which are more common than short or medium chain. Unfortunately, this has meant that sat-fats as a whole have been associated with negative health impacts.
But in more recent years, research has focused on the medium chain fatty acids as a solo act. These are found in tropical plants such as coconut oil. We now know that MCTs are not only less harmful to health than other sat fats, but actually provide a whole host of health benefits in their own right! Here’s just a few…
- Balancing Cholesterol Levels – MCT oils have been shown to work in synergy to raise levels of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol and lower levels of LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol. This results in a favourable balance of good cholesterol, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Lowering Blood Pressure – Consuming MCT oil has been shown to widen blood vessels and reduce inflammation in arteries, which together can help to lower blood pressure. High blood pressure has been linked with heart and kidney disease, as well as Dementia – so the more we van do to bring it back down, the better!
- Weight Loss – Consuming MCTs promotes fat oxidation, meaning that you metabolise your dietary fat quicker – using it for energy as opposed to storing it. Ongoing research is also looking into the effect MCTs have on your appetite-controlling hormones, suggesting they help you to feel fuller for longer and so aid in weight loss.
- Increase Performance – Our bodies are more inclined to burn MCT fats for energy than store them. They are metabolised in the liver to produce ketones, which are formed when fat is being used as the main fuel source for exercise. This in turn can help to improve endurance, muscle strength and stamina.
We hope we have helped you to understand how all fats aren’t created equal, and that incorporating MCTs into your diet can support overall health. The take home message from this post is to do your homework – wise-up on your nutrition knowledge and don’t eliminate an entire food group from your diet based on one headline!
You’ll find your ‘good fats’ – in natural Real Food sources such as avocados, olives, nuts and – like MCTs – in coconut oil. Hunter and Gather MCT Oil is extracted from fresh, hand-picked and sustainably harvested coconuts. This provides you with a source of pure and natural healthy fats.
On the other hand, if something is processed past the point of recognition and you can’t even guess what it’s made of – it’ll probably do you a fat lot of good!