How much and what should YOU be eating?

Unfortunately, this is not a simple question to answer.

Dietary fat is important for the health of every cell in our body. It is vital for normal hormone production, tissue and nerve health and it protects vital organs such as the heart, kidneys and liver from damage.

Fats are also essential for the transportation of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

Healthy skin, brain cells, hair, mucous membranes, the digestive system, the immune system, the heart, the reproductive function and nervous systems are dependent on one eating the right amount of fat and the right types of fat.

Fat requirements are individual. In addition to the total amount required, it is also vital to pay attention to the TYPE of fats consumed.

As a rule of thumb, most people do well when 1/3 or 30 % of their total energy intake comes from fat and foods should be selected in such a way that one consumes more mono-unsaturated fat than either poly-unsaturated fat or saturated fat.

What does this mean?

First of all – the higher one’s energy requirements, the higher one’s fat requirements. Active children and adults require more fat than sedentary adults and older people.

One’s focus should also be on consuming predominantly unrefined food sources of fats such as nuts and seeds and cold pressed or cold processed oils from these foods, avocado and olives. In addition, one should control, no need to exclude, amounts of foods rich in fat from animal sources such as cream or meat/chicken.

That said, not all fats from animal products are equal – and bad since no animal product contains ONLY saturated fat. Research has shown that, for example Karoo lamb contains a considerable amount of both mono unsaturated fat as well as Omega 3 fat and the fatty acid content of milk from cows that graze on green pastures and cattle that feed on grass only -will be very different to that of animal raised in feedlots on a maize based diet.

Another exception to the ‘animal fat is bad’-rule is FISH – especially oily fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel that contains very low levels of saturated fat and high levels of unsaturated fat, especially omega 3 fats.

Manufactured foods such as margarine, cooking liquids and commercial dressings that tout ‘high in poly-unsaturated fats’ are often produced using oils that contain predominantly poly-unsaturated fat – and not a balance of fats. These foods should be consumed with caution especially if ones intake of raw nuts are lacking as it may shift the balance toward a higher intake of poly-unsaturated fat instead of mono-unsaturated fat.

In addition , these foods often contain preservatives – referred to as anti-oxidants- that may influence digestion and assimilation of nutrients.

Indiscriminate use of processed fats – especially when they replace unrefined sources of fat will result in changes in cell function and development of diseases such as heart disease.

When one has reached the point where, instead of exclusion the focus is careful selection and controlled choices, it is possible to include anything from a juicy steak to a piece of cream cake…