What you need to know about dietary fats and oils

Don’t fear fats and oils, natural dietary fat and cholesterol is NOT bad for your health! In fact, good quality fats and oils are very important building blocks to creating a healthy body. Fat is an essential nutrient for good health (essential meaning you can’t make all the fats you need, dietary sources are essential), here is some of what your body uses fats and oils for:

  • making healthy functioning cells (each cell has a “lipid bilayer” double layer of fat) as the cell membrane
  • nerve function (many nerves are surrounded by myelin sheath made from fat that allows them to function, people with Multiple Sclerosis begin to lose the myelin sheath)
  • Brain function (recent studies have linked eating good fats with prevention of dementia)
  • energy production
  • strong bones (it is required to absorb calcium and vitamin D into the bones)
  • making hormones – steroid hormones are made from cholesterol (eg oestrogen, testosterone)
  • insulating your organs
  • to absorb the extremely important vitamins A, D, E and K
  • fats and oils also taste great and makes you feel full and satisfied!

A low fat diet can therefore lead to osteoporosis, nutrient deficiencies, low immunity, memory issues, dementia, hormonal imbalances, skin issues, premature aging, inflammation and poor health in general. Good quality dietary fats and cholesterol do NOT become “bad” cholesterol in the body.

Ensure you include some of these healthy fats in your diet each day:

  • avocado
  • full fat dairy products
  • butter (old fashioned block butter and ghee)
  • oils – (coconut oil, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, quality fish oil, avocado oil).
  • raw unsalted nuts & seeds
  • meat/animal fat (from healthy animals – grass fed/free range)
  • eggs (free range)
  • fish with skin

Avoid these poor quality fats:

  • vegetable oil
  • canola oil
  • cottonseed oil
  • sunflower oil
  • hydrogenated oil/partially hydrogenated oils (usually in packaged foods/confectionary)
  • margarine (including the cholesterol lowering variety)
  • soft butters (they are usually vegetable oils/margarine in disguise)
  • rice bran oil
  • poor quality fish oil (get advice from a nutritional based practitioner about which ones are good, poor quality ones can be damaging to the body)
  • flaxseed oil that is not kept in the fridge (it will be rancid and damaging to the body)
  • poor quality/grain fed meats

Poor quality fats and oils cause inflammation and oxidative stress in the body (damage and aging). They also (along with sugar) cause damaged/oxidised bad cholesterol. They make very poor lipid bilayers for your cell membranes, therefore cells that don’t function well, increasing your risk of insulin resistance and reducing the overall ability of your cells to make energy and stay healthy. For good health, it is very important to eat the right fats.

Please don’t fear fat; just ensure you eat the right kind.

Fiona Kane, Nutritional Medicine Practitioner, Informed Health Nutritional Wellbeing Centre