CALORIE counting and low fat diets have been in vogue for more than 40 years, with countless diet books, slimming clubs and weight loss plans urging us to cut fat out of our diet in a bid to lose weight.
Thankfully things are starting to change – and the message is starting to get through that fat is an important part of a healthy diet.
Those who touted the low fat dietary principles promised us that this way of eating would make us leaner, but instead the incidence of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease has soared.
Fat is an essential nutrient for our health and wellbeing, and while many of us are still a little nervous about adding more of it to our diets, I think it is a nutrient that many of us may not getting enough of.
Of course there are different types of fats, and some are better for us than others, but if your shopping trolley is full of low fat foods it could be that you are missing some essential nutrients from your diet, and not just the essential fats.
Here is why I am a big fan of fat...
Fat is an essential nutrient. We need fat in our diet to thrive and survive. Fat is required for energy production, cell health and is a key ingredient in the formation of neurotransmitters, hormones and cell membranes.
It will help you to feel fuller for longer. Fat satiates our appetite. We need it in our diets to help regulate our appetite and support a healthy metabolism.
It provides us with fat soluble vitamins - that’s A, D, E and K. With a low fat diet we can be at increased risk of a deficiency in any one of these.
Getting the right balance of fat in our diet helps with a healthy inflammatory response, supports cardiovascular health and feeds our brains.
How to get enough...
Of course not all fats are healthy, but by focusing on getting the good ones into your diet, you will be doing your health a big favour.
Eat omega 3 rich oily fish 2-3 times a week: Make sure you get fish that is from a sustainable source – look out for the little blue emblem of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as a guide.
Add olive oil back into your diet: Not only will your food taste better, but you will be getting more monounsaturated fats and polyphenols, both of which have been associated with reducing our risk heart disease.
Have a handful of nuts and seeds every day: Flaxseed, chia seeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts – any mix you like. These little nutrition powerhouses provide you with healthy fats, and a whole host of nutrients ungluing calcium, magnesium and vitamin E.
Choosing full fat yoghurts does not mean you are choosing a high fat food: Take a closer look at the label and you will find that a typical natural yoghurt contains 3.8g fat per 100g. That is not a high fat food. I recommend full fat natural yoghurt over the low fat flavoured version any day, and not only because it tastes better.
Use butter, not margarine: Margarine is a highly processed food that is unlikely to have a place in any healthy diet.
If weight loss is your goal, then start to look at the ingredients list of your low fat foods. You are likely to find a list including sugar, sweeteners, emulsifiers and other less healthy ingredients. Make the switch to a lower sugar diet, pack your plate with plenty of vegetables and protein and skip the snacks between meals.