Lots of good things came out of the 80s – Back to the future, Transformers and Inspector Gadget to name but a few but one thing that wasn’t so good in my mind was when the food industry started heavily promoting ‘low fat’ diets. In its place came sugar laden processed alternatives leading to people eating more refined carbohydrates and sugars. Ever since, the nation has become fatter and suffered with more illnesses.
Back in February 2016 the Daily Mail reported ‘Butter isn’t bad for you after all. Major study says 80s advice on dairy fat is flawed.’
I remember catching sight of the headline as I waited for my train thinking … at last! The article was taken from a study published by the medical journal, Open Heart which reviewed the claim that our risk of heart disease could be reduced by cutting the amount of saturated fat in our diets.
Lets turn back the clock 30 years… we were told back then that by eating saturated fat, it’d raise our cholesterol and high levels of cholesterol are linked to heart disease. In 1953, American scientist Ancel Keyes published a paper ‘Atherosclerosis: A problem in newer public health’ which compared the fat consumption and deaths from heart disease of men from 6 different countries.
Americans who ate a lot of fat were more likely to die from heart disease than say the Norwegians. So on mass people jumped on the eat less butter and cheese bandwagon and swapped full fat milk to skimmed. But sure enough it wasn’t long before other scientists began to question Keyes’s claims and why he only reviewed 6 countries. When they started to factor in countries like France (whose population eat a lot of saturated fat but had moderate levels of heart disease) his case weakened. Plus, we were eating less fat and getting fatter!
Along with the marketing frenzy of ‘Fat is bad’, came the stick beating on cholesterol. If fat clogs up our arteries then so does cholesterol. So foods high in cholesterol like whole eggs were frowned upon and we were urged to limit our consumption. Egg white omelettes became all the rage and fitness magazines were littered with yoke free protein alternatives (the cholesterol resides in the yoke).
Fast forward to the present day and it turns out the effects of the cholesterol we consume via food has little effect on cholesterol in the blood, which is the stuff that clogs up our arteries! Oh the power of marketing and advertising… and it’s taken over 30 years for all these myths to slowly fade and be questioned.
Even research funded by the British Heart Foundation last year, which examined the links between eating saturated fat and heart disease on over half a million people, couldn’t scientifically conclude eating saturated fat leads to increased risk of heart disease.
Today people are becoming more aware that actually it’s sugar, refined and also an overindulgence in fructose found in fruit, that’s causing obesity and damage to health. Me included, I used to be a massive fruit fiend. I’d think nothing to gobbling down a whole bag of grapes thinking I was being super healthy when in actual fact the sheer amount of sugar was feeding the over presence of bad bacteria in my gut that sure enough later in life, and with an uncompromised gut lining fuelled the onset of my autoimmune disease.
Eating Fat will not make you fat
So there’s a shift, new studies and articles are now heralding the use of unprocessed fats, including saturated fat, and that fat should not have been demonised. Just the word itself conjures up bad associations in people’s minds thinking that by eating fat you will get fat. Excess calories and a sedentary lifestyle is what makes you fat. It’s about getting the right balance.
So I don’t shy away from fats, I just eat the right ones and i’m sensible. I consume lots of extra virgin olive oil, seed and nut oils, coconut oil, occasionally some butter and eat plenty of eggs and avocados. We need fat for energy, nerve and brain function and for maintaining healthy skin. I’m not convinced that a diet over rich in saturated fat is good either, it’s a balance.
Here is my guide to the best healthy fats
Technically a fruit, but contain about 75% of their calories from fat as opposed to carbohydrate/ sugar from most other fruits. These green goddesses of beauty feature pretty much every day in my diet and are delicious in dips like my luxury avocado pesto (recipe coming soon), give richness and creaminess to raw cakes like my Raw chocolate almond cake minis or simply sprinkle cubes ontop of your favourite scrambles or soups.
Wild Oily Fish
One of the best healthy fats there is and a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which help to keep inflammation in the body in check. Mackerel, salmon, sardines and trout tend to be the most popular. Studies indicate that people who regularly consume (at least twice a week) oily fish have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, demenzia, age-related vision loss and depression. What’s more, as the wintery nights draw in and our opportunity for exposure to the sun diminishes, oily fish is a good source of vitamin D.
Whilst larger fish like tuna and swordfish are packed full of healthy omegas, they tend to contain more pollutants, like mercury. Although these dioxins have no immediate effect on health, they accumulate over time and we struggle to expel them from the body. So buy the best quality you can afford, and if you’re opting for tuna, go fresh where you can as most of the good oil is lost through the cooking and canning process. Mix up your oily fish weekly menu for superfood fat benefits.
A fabulous source of fibre, protein and high in anti inflammatory acids. Also a great source of magnesium, particularly Brazils, to help relax muscles and vitamin E for the skin.
Almonds contain a natural pain-killing agent called salicin. Eating about 15 almonds is the equivalent of taking two aspirin so next time instead of reaching for the pharmaceutical pain relief full of starchy fillers and lactose, grab yourself a handful of almonds.
Pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax, chai, poppy, apricot kernels – they may be small but they pack a mighty nutritional punch. Enjoy naked over a smoothie bowl, soup pot, or roast in the oven with coconut aminos and your favourite herbs and spices for a superfood snack.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The hole grail of healthy oils. If it’s good enough for the mediterraneans and all that! The oleic acid found in this oil is proven to help lower cholesterol and improve blood pressure. Add unfiltered EVO to your salads, on roast vegetables or drizzle on top of soups instead of cream.
I feel sorry for people who can’t eat eggs, they are my go to breakfast staple. They incredibly nutritious, packed full of protein, vitamin D and B vitamins they’re so versatile. Check out my eggy breakfast recipes for inspiration. Whilst fitness magazines of the 80s and 90s advocated using just egg whites as a trim protein filled superfood, today times are a changing.
Yes, eggs are high in cholesterol, but they don’t adversely affect blood cholesterol which is the stuff that clogs up our arteries. In fact, the yokes contain good fats and consuming them whole studies are now indicating actually raises HDL (good cholesterol).
Coconut chips, flour and oil
Coconuttyness is sweeping the nation! Coconut oil, flour, crips, wraps, nectar, aminos. It’s everywhere. A hot topic of debate with the health conscious is how good coconut oil is for health. Read by post Is coconut oil good for you or is it just marketing hype? and make up your own mind.
Personally, I’m a big fan, but like with most things moderation is the key. Yes it’s 90% saturated fat but not all fat is created equally and it’s the medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil that actually aid digestion and support weight loss buy increasing metabolism and fat burning.
A bit like marmite, you either love them or hate them. I’m in the LOVE corner on this one. If you’ve sampled a few and not found the one for you yet, please don’t give up. A bit like wine, olives vary in taste considerably depending on which country and region they are from and how they are preserved. A Nocellara with its buttery flavour is somewhat different to the salty richness you’ll find with a kalamata.
If you’ve an autoimmune disease or compromised gut, try to find the ones just in olive oil or sunflower oil without preservatives. In the UK I recommend Wholefood’s Green Olives with Basil or The Real Olive Company do a wide variety just in brine.