So you’ve been going to the gym religiously and eating healthily? Still haven’t seen any sign of that six-pack? Samuel Cranny-Evans tells you how you can get the most from your diet, and explains why you should definitely reconsider those reduced fat options…
Fat brings most people to the gym; it makes you feel uncomfortable, sometimes even depressed. Most people want to lose fat, and logically following on from that, avoid eating obvious fats such as butter, cream and cheese. However, most fats are like traffic wardens; nobody likes them but they are there for your own good (of course, those of you who’ve ever had a parking ticket might disagree!)
Why are fats good for you? Well, first of all, your brain – which is fairly important -consists of 60% fat (called fatty acids), which are produced when foods are digested. Your brain then uses these fats to construct the cells it needs. And there’s more. Your nerves are coated in something called a myelin sheath. This acts like the plastic insulation on an electrical cable – it stops your nerves from miss-firing and keeps them sending the correct signals in the right directions. This myelin sheath is also constructed of a fat called monosaturated oleic acid, which is found in olive oil and most nuts!
Has this convinced you to include fats in your diet? Well if not, consider the following; your body cannot digest protein (which is essential for the growth and repair of all the body’s tissues) without the presence of saturated fat. Equally, the body cannot absorb vitamins A, D, E and K without saturated fats. Without going into too much detail, these vitamins keep you alive. They help you heal, rebuild bone, produce red and white blood cells, and maintain healthy hormonal levels.
So why do fats have such a bad reputation? It’s basically a result of confusion. There are many different types of fats: saturates, monosaturates, monounsaturated fats, triglycerides, and hydrogenated fats. They’re all different and all come from different places. Saturated fats have received the worst press, but they are the fat you should be including! Daily changes to your diet such as using blue top milk, eating organic cheeses and using butter in your cooking all help. Or get rid of spray on cooking oils, margarines and reduced fat items to provide further assistance to your body. Replace them with virgin olive and coconut oil, or the occasional avocado!
So that’s saturated fats; they’re good for you, eat them! Another vital aspect of fatty acids is the omega group. Studies by The journal of Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy suggest that humans evolved on a equal ratio of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids to omega-3 essential fatty acids. This set our genetic pattern for health – and it worked well. Imagine then the effect which the average western diet, with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of 15/1, has on your health. The same article claims that this is a major cause of cardio vascular disease, cancer and other inflammatory diseases. Unfortunately, omega-6 is the most common fatty acid, found in vegetable oil, cereal, poultry, eggs, sunflower oils, and durum wheat- the main ingredient in pasta. To help improve your health simply limit these fats and increase your omega-3, use a good quality fish oil supplement in triglyceride form, at a dose of around 4 grams a day, and you will see a reduction in body fat and increase in muscle mass very quickly. Eat wild, fresh water fish like salmon and trout, as well as grass fed beef for healthier sources. Charles Polliquin, a leading nutritionist from Canada, has also shown that healthy Omega-3 levels can reduce stress, Improve cellular health, decrease inflammation of nerves, cells and fatty tissue, and help you to feel fitter, leaner and healthier.
On a final note, there are some fats which you must avoid wherever possible. Hydrogenated fats or trans fats, which are made by adding hydrogen to unsaturated oils such as olive or vegetable oil are very bad for us. Going back to our brain, which is made of digested fats, if the only fats you consume are the greasy ones which come to the surface of your ready meal when you microwave it, then that is what your brain will use to repair and replace cells. The end doesn’t sound good if those are your only fatty acids does it?
Furthermore, a five year study showed that people who ate more trans fats were significantly more irritable and aggressive than those who ate less. Trans fats are also thought to cause inflammation in the brain, which increases depression. So when shopping look out for “hydrogenated fats”, “hydrogenated vegetable oils”, or trans fats. Avoid those foods and live a healthier life! You have one life, be fit for it
Sam Cranny- Evans