What fats do I need for health?
For decades fat has been vilified. An incredibly efficient source of energy, fat saved our ancestors' lives, but in today's world of plenty and sedentary practices, where 35-40% of our diet may be from fat, we can despair when we stand on the bathroom scales.
In casting fat aside, however, we are losing not only a valuable energy source but also the source of vital fat soluble vitamins, not to mention all the other fantastic things that fats do in our bodies like forming flexible cell membranes, insulating nerves, keeping skin soft and supple and forming hormones and other messengers. There's a reason some fats are called 'essential', we simply have to get them in our diet otherwise our health takes a nose dive. The right fats can help protect you from heart disease and preserve your cognitive function. At least 10% of our diet should be from fat, but what sort of fat?
It's not surprising that the general public doesn't fully trust public health messages anymore; we were told to eat margarine not butter, then margarine was found to have the nasty 'trans' fats that cause heart disease; we were told to 'go to work on an egg' then there was the cholesterol scare, then it was declared eggs were OK again.
My advice for navigating the maze is to follow your Granny's advice 'a little of what you fancy does you good' and your Gran wasn't talking about ready meals or junk food! Eat fresh, seasonal wholesome food, organic where possible. If you fancy occasional cakes or pastries, go for it, but make them yourself from scratch, or get them from someone who uses good quality ingredients, so you know what's in them and the ingredients don't look like a chemistry lesson.
Make vegetables the dominant rainbow on your plate and if you are a meat eater, buy good quality organic meat and consume it as a treat. Try to get 2 to 3 portions of oily fish such as mackerel or sardines each week. Or consider taking a good quality fish oil supplement, but please note that you get what you pay for in fish oils: have a chat with your health store staff about the varieties available. If you need some help balancing the fats in your diet or you're worried about the impact of fat on a particular health problem, find a natural health practitioner who is able to help you assess your diet.
This article was written by Nutritional Therapist Georgie O'Conner, for CNH (College of Natural Health). CNH trains students across South Africa for successful careers in natural health, and offers Short Courses in a range of natural therapies. www.collegeofnaturalhealth.co.za
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