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Facing the Fats series graphic

Thank you for continuing to follow this series on fats. I hope by this point, you have a better idea of the role of fats and know the differences among saturated, unsaturatedtrans fats and essential polyunsaturated fats. Now as we don’t consider just nutrients when eating food, let’s talk about some practical ways to incorporate more healthy fats into our diets. I’ve tried to put together as many useful ways as I know, but if you have your own swaps and suggestions, feel free to sound off in the comments.

1. Eating Oily Fish and & Taking Omega 3 Supplements – TRUTH

Consuming oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and pilchards are a great way to incorporate more EFAs into your diet. There are UK guidelines for the consumption of oily fish along with other fish and shellfish because there is a concern about mercury poisoning. They recommend two 140g portions of fish including 1 oily fish.

Increasing the amount of salmon we consume can improve polyunsaturated fats and hence improve heart health.
Salmon fillets are great sources of PUFAs and essential fats. Source

As I am not particularly a fan of eating fish (unless I have cooked it), I aim to get my omega 3 through supplements or vegetarian sources. There is some controversy on the usefulness of fish oil supplements as compared to eating fish, but if you do consider taking them, you should consult your medical doctor for the best advice.

Pilchard is also a great source of essential fatty acids.
Cold-water fish like pilchards are also a great source of essential fatty acids. Photo by Diane Helentjaris on Unsplash

2. Introducing Nuts & Seeds to your daily meals – TRUTH

Nuts and seeds are great sources of healthy unsaturated fats, and we can also gain lots of protein and fibre from them.

Sunflower seeds can also provide healthy fats, protein and fibre.
Sunflower seeds pack lots of essential fats, protein and fibre!

Between meals, if you’re feeling a bit peckish, snacking on a handful of almonds, walnuts or pumpkin seed could be very satiating and can reduce your appetite for more high fat, salt or sugary foods, while providing you with essential fatty acids.

Almonds and almond milk
Almonds are also very high in Calcium and vitamin E..Source

You could also include linseed, chia seeds or nuts in your breakfast porridge or salads to get a boost of omega 3s and fibre!

Chia seed pudding as a source of unsaturated fatty acids.
Despite looking like they are challenging to make, chia seed puddings are simple to make and easy to flavour. These would make a great breakfast or dessert. Source

3. Reducing fat intake from Dairy products – TRUTH

Where saturated fats are unavoidable, such as in dairy, cheese and butter, it’s recommended that we make swaps for reduced-fat and low-fat options such as skimmed milk or low-fat yoghurt. Just beware that low-fat may sometimes mean that more sugar is added to compensate for the taste. I typically purchase greek or unflavoured low-fat yoghurt to avoid added sugar.

Greek yoghurt in a bowl
Yoghurt can be on aspect of a healthy breakfast. Alternatively it could be used to make dips and sauces. Photo by Sara Cervera on Unsplash

Some people will even switch to spreads or light margarine with canola/ rapeseed and olive oil for their daily needs. Personally, I prefer the taste of butter in some dishes, so I still include it in my cooking, or a hybrid of butter and spread.  

A knife gliding through butter.
There’s nothing quite like some butter on a piece of corn or buttered toast.

4. Changing Cooking methods for Meats and Vegetables – TRUTH

When it comes down to reducing your total fat intake, especially saturated fats, you may need to do more active swaps. For instance, instead of having deep-fried chicken or deep-fried pork, you may want to try shallow frying or baking with a crispy coating to get the satisfying crunch of typical fried food.

Chicken frying in oil.
Instead of deep-fat frying, we could pan-sear meats and finish them in oven, or coat them with a crispy coating and bake them in the oven. There are lots of ways to cook meat, that can help us to reduce fat intake. Source

You can also cut off skin or visible fat from meats like pork,beef or chicken, or choose lean versions for items such as minced meats. However, because I have done my share of experimenting cooking – and I love to eat- I will warn that the taste of skinless chicken is not quite as satisfying. So you may need to season it a bit more with herbs and spices, as the fat typically enhances the flavours.

Cuts of red meat with the fat and skin trimmed.
cheaper cuts of meat can have lot’s of skin and excess fat which should be trimmed off. Leaving on some fat could impart flavour as well, but there must be a balance. Source

To avoid sticking and burning of your meat, you may also need to add a small amount of oil to your pan, such as sunflower oil, safflower, soya bean oil, peanut oil or vegetable oil which are all unsaturated oils. I’ve come across this useful guide to the various oils and their best uses, given their smoking point, which makes life a whole lot easier.

Photo by jonathan ocampo on Unsplash

When you choose to cook vegetables, try steaming them or stir-fry them with a drizzle of sesame or peanut oil to maintain their nutrients and integrity while imparting flavour. Alternatively, roasting is also a great way to cook flavourful veggies with some flair.

5. Getting your Avocado (Toast) fix – TRUTH

Avocado has been known to increase HDL levels in a meta-analysis of several studies. But, I’m not much of a bread eater or toast-for-breakfast person. So, while a 50g serving of avocado provides about 6g of healthy unsaturated oils, I prefer buttered toast to avocado toast, if given the choice. I know it’s totally the aesthetic on tons of Instagram posts from wellbeing and fitness influencers, but I’ve never found the appeal. Different folks, different strokes.

Beautiful avocado toast
Although this is beautiful, I don’t enjoy avocado on bread, and would rather eat it on its own. Image by Edgar Castrejon for rawpixel.com

Definitely don’t be fooled into thinking that this is the only way you can eat avocado though. I just prefer it on its own or maybe with a bit of farine (dehydrated cassava flakes) mixed in. Some other ways include making guacamole, which you can use dip vegetable sticks or tortilla chips or using avocado instead of mayo as a salad dressing.

Smashed avocado
Source

6. Eat More Coconut and coconut oil – MYTH

Coconut and coconut oil are typically considered very healthful, but they are especially controversial. Although coconut is a fruit, it has majorly saturated oil and following most nutrition advice, we, therefore, should limit the amount that we consume. There is lots of information which promotes using coconut oil internally or even taking MCT supplements, but there is not enough scientific evidence to confirm that this high intake of saturated fat would be beneficial to health. 

Coconut flakes
I’ve seen more coconut chips popping up as a healthy snack, and while they are delicious, they may not be healthier for you than a regular potato chip.
Image by Jakub Kapusnak for rawpixel.com

While I like coconuts quite a lot, I try to adhere to the advice of reduced consumption, but I use the oil externally on my skin and hair. Though on occasion because of the high smoke point of coconut oil and the distinct taste, I find it makes a delicious medium for shallow frying aromatics for a curry or adding flavour to stir-fried vegetables. Hopefully, future research will be able to confirm the true nature of the fats in coconut, since it is so tasty.

7. Reducing fats from other processed foods – TRUTH

Baked goods such as cookies, biscuits, cakes and pastries are often high in saturated fats such as palm oil. While the occasional treat shouldn’t send you to the cardiac ward immediately, having these high fat, salt and sugar foods every day could be very detrimental to your health, resulting in cardiovascular disease.

Stack of donuts
One of my favourites! Donuts are high in both sugar and fat,, but could still be an occasional treat. Source

For foods like chips and other fried snack foods, you could try eating smaller portions or switch to baked versions. We want to be very careful about the amount of fat in each serving, ensuring that you are below a total fat intake of 78g per day.

Bowl of potato chips
We all love a good potato chip when we’re catching up with our favourite shows on TV or Netflix. Source

Bottom line

To summarise this whole series, we want to aim to keep total fat intake to under 78g, while your saturated fat intake should be less than 20g and trans-fat intake is no more than 5g of trans fats.

Swapping out saturated fats for the more healthful unsaturated options (MUFA and PUFA) as nuts, seeds and oily fish. While reducing deep-fried and high-fat foods should help to improve your HDL cholesterol too.

Of course, this is not all going to be a one-size-fits-all solution, but hopefully, it has gotten you thinking about eating a more balanced diet and maintaining an active lifestyle to help to reduce your risk of heart disease.

I’d love to hear about any other ways you have any other ways of maintaining a healthy fat consumption in the comments!

References:

BDA, n.d. Fat [WWW Document]. URL https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/fat.html (accessed 2.4.20).

British Nutrition Foundation, n.d. Fat [WWW Document]. British Nutrition Foundation. URL https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/nutrients-food-and-ingredients/fat.html?limitstart=0 (accessed 2.4.20).

Gibney, M.J., Lanham-New, S.A., Cassidy, A., Vorster, H.H., Vorster, H.H., 2009. Nutrition and Metabolism of Lipids, in: Introduction to Human Nutrition, Nutrition Society Textbook Series. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, pp. 86–121.

Howard LeWine, 2013. Fish oil: friend or foe? [WWW Document]. Harvard Health Blog. URL https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fish-oil-friend-or-foe-201307126467 (accessed 3.28.20).

Mahmassani, H.A., Avendano, E.E., Raman, G., Johnson, E.J., 2018. Avocado consumption and risk factors for heart disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 107, 523–536. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqx078

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 2009. Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth [WWW Document]. NCCIH. URL https://nccih.nih.gov/health/omega3/introduction.htm (accessed 3.28.20).

National Institudes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements, n.d. Omega-3 Fatty Acids [WWW Document]. National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. URL https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/ (accessed 3.28.20).

NHS, 2018a. Fat: the facts [WWW Document]. nhs.uk. URL https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/different-fats-nutrition/ (accessed 1.30.20).

NHS, 2018b. Fish and shellfish [WWW Document]. nhs.uk. URL https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/fish-and-shellfish-nutrition/ (accessed 3.28.20).

Publishing, H.H., n.d. Coconut oil: heart-healthy or just hype? [WWW Document]. Harvard Health. URL https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-disease-overview/coconut-oil-heart-healthy-or-just-hype (accessed 3.28.20).

Sacks Frank M., 2020. Coconut Oil and Heart Health. Circulation 141, 815–817. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.119.044687

Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN)he Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), n.d. Saturated fats and health: SACN report [WWW Document]. GOV.UK. URL https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/saturated-fats-and-health-sacn-report (accessed 2.10.20).

The Vegetarian Society, n.d. Fats and Omegas [WWW Document]. Vegetarian Society. URL https://www.vegsoc.org/info-hub/health-and-nutrition/fats-and-omegas/ (accessed 3.28.20).

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