Unfortunately, over the last couple of years, fat as dietary component has been stigmatized. Often, instead of a modulated fat intake, exclusion has been advocated – to meet requirements of a ‘low fat’ diet.
This is a sorry state of affairs as fat is vital for a myriad of physiological functions in the body. The cellular structure of each cell in our body is a reflection of the type of fats we eat and subsequently, all metabolic processes will be impacted by both how much but more importantly, the type of fats we eat.
Yes, healthy skin, brain cells, hair, mucous membranes, the digestive system, the immune system, the heart, the reproductive and hormonal functioning and nervous systems are dependent on one eating the right amount of fat and the right types of fat. In addition, fat in our body is required to serve as a mechanical ‘cushioning’ system around vital organs such as the heart, kidneys and liver.
In addition, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, found only in fatty foods, can only be utilized in the body in the presence of fat.
How much and which type do we need?
Fat requirements are individual and are influenced by for example activity levels, genetics and present disease conditions or the presence of physical imbalances in an individual.
Prudent dietary guidelines suggest that approximately 25- 35 % of total energy intake should come from fat. This recommendation is applicable to healthy people as well as people with conditions such as diabetes and cholesterol. However, it is interesting to note that, the recommended ‘range’ in actual fact covers the requirements of, on the one hand, a ‘low fat’ diet, and on the higher end of the range, a ‘higher fat diet’.
This ambiguity underlines an issue of more importance – the type of fat we consume.
Rather, in line with evidence regarding the role of fat in health as well as the prevention and treatment of diseases, it has become necessary to shift our focus toward the TYPE of fat we consume. Yes, in some clinical conditions, it may be of equal importance to manage total quantity but for general health and as part of a focus to make better food choices it is imperative to choose our foods such that we consume more mono-unsaturated fat and less poly-unsaturated and saturated fat.
How does one do this?
Indeed, this ‘prudent’ guideline means very little in practical terms for most people and probably only adds to the confusion that exists around the issue of dietary fat.
Ideal fat intake is not achieved by choosing predominantly low fat products or by avoiding food sources of fats or by avoiding foods that contain more than 3g or 5 g of fat per 100 g or similar recommendation
The BetterEat ™ Fat in FOOD guide serves to provide individuals with an easy to apply system to manage and control overall fat intake as well as focus on type of fat. This TOOL is available in the TIPS and TOOLS section to subscribers.
This guide will provide a better understanding of fat that enables individuals to know which foods are high in fat and which foods are low in fat – whether the packaging displays a nutritional table or not. The simple formula will also allow one to change your eating pattern by means of addition of ‘better’ choices and exclusion of less desirable option. Working within the parameters of a ‘prudent’ fat ‘allowance’, it is possible to enjoying favourite foods and special treats. For one person this may mean a juicy steak and for another a piece of cream cake!