Good and bad fats explained

Good and bad fats explained

Understanding which fats are good and which fats are bad has to be one of the most controversial topics of dietary health advice and even now some of the messages continue to be misleading. Fats are essential for our health, energy and metabolism. A fatty membrane surrounds every cell in our body and 60% of the dry weight of our brain is fat but not all fats are created equal. By understanding more about different fats, we can begin to identify those which are most essential and why.

Why is fat important

Fat serves as the transport mechanism for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fats also provide a concentrated source of energy, influence cell function and structure, contain anti-inflammatory properties, can protect the heart and are needed for hormone production.

The main types of dietary fats include saturated, monosaturated and polyunsaturated.

Saturated fats

These fats are solid at room temperature and are found mainly in animal sources including butter, cheese, meat, lard and cream. Plant based sources include coconut oil and palm oil. Your body can also make saturated fat through consumption of excess sugar, which can be turned into fat. Recommendations suggest saturated fats should be consumed in moderation but if these fats are eaten in natural foods other important nutrients are also provided, so though it’s important to have a balanced diet saturated fats in natural foods shouldn’t be avoided.

Monounsaturated Fats

At room temperature, these fats are liquid and include olive oil, rapeseed, nuts and seeds and some fruits and vegetables, such as avocados. Monosaturated fats are generally considered healthy and make up a huge proportion of the Mediterranean diet, which has been hailed as a diet for optimal health and longevity. This includes lots of fish, vegetables, fruits and olive oil.

Polyunsaturated Fats

These fats are liquid at room temperature and sources include vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, meat, dairy produce, eggs and fish. ‘Good’ polyunsaturated fats are the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6, which we consume through our diet. Foods high in these essential fatty acids include nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, meat, fish, dairy products and eggs.

Trans Fats

These fats are not natural fats and are created through processing or cooking at high temperatures and can have a detrimental impact on our health. These can be created from vegetable oils that have been manipulated by food manufacturing to produce a solid fat, which can be used in baked products, cakes, biscuits, crisps, fried food, take-aways and sauces. These fats are known as trans fat/hydrogenated fats and have been implicated in heart disease, cancer, diabetes and increased inflammation.

We can also create these trans fats whilst cooking when we heat monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats to high temperatures, which changes the molecular structure of the oil. For this reason, when using fats to cook/fry food at high temperatures, saturated fats such as coconut oil are most stable alongside extra virgin olive oil, as long as you don’t heat to smoke point.

What fats should we eat?

It’s important to consume fats through natural foods rather then highly processed, packaged alternatives. Examples include using olive oil as a salad dressing rather than ready-made salad dressings and opting for butter rather than margarine. Eating a range of animal products in moderation can provide our bodies with required nutrients. The importance of eating fish should not be underestimated as this provides essential omega-3’s, which have an important role in brain health, hormone balance, vision, immunity and heart health.

Helping children to understand the importance of consuming natural foods and fats for their growth and development is an important message. Fats shouldn’t be discussed as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but focus should be on those, which are most beneficial for our health.


mefinal2015The Food Teacher, Katharine Tate, has worked as a teacher and education consultant internationally in primary and secondary schools for over 20 years.

Qualified as a registered nutritional therapist, Katharine, combines her unique education and nutrition expertise to offer schools, organisations and families advice, education programmes, practical workshops, and individual/family clinical consultations. She has also published 2 books: ‘Heat-Free & Healthy’ and ‘No Kitchen Cookery for Primary Schools’.

(For more information, visit her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter or email her at info@thefoodteacher.co.uk. You can also visit her website to find out more and subscribe to her newsletter.)


 

 

How is the government encouraging healthy eating through the implementation of taxes?

How is the government encouraging healthy eating through the implementation of taxes?

It is a common misconception that healthy eating is expensive. However, with increasing prices on unhealthy food we are beginning to see government intervention to hold companies accountable for the foods they produce. In this article, we delve deeper into how the implementation of taxes is encouraging the nation to opt for healthier food choices.

The World Health Organisation

Healthy eating has been a problem for much of the world for a number of years, but with the recent implementation of government taxes and a plethora of reports being released on the negative impacts of unhealthy food, there have been many organisations calling for change. The World Health Organisation has been at the forefront of the fight to tackle obesity for a number of years and has helped to implement taxes in Denmark on saturated fats, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and an increase in tax on sweets, ice-cream and chocolate of 25% as voted on by the European Commission.

The Soft Drinks Industry Levy

This was adopted by the UK in the fight against obesity as a Levy was then implemented. This tax involved going rates for companies at 24p per litre of drink with more than 8 grams of sugar per 100 millilitres. In addition to this, there is also an 18p tariff per litre of drink that contains between 5-8 grams of sugar per 100g. This was a controversial move by the UK government as part of their Soft Drinks Industry Levy to encourage the production of healthier drinks on the market.

When asked about the results of the Levy the Public Health Minister at the time Steve Brine MP had this to say:

“The progress made so far on our obesity plan is promising – but with one in three children still leaving primary school overweight or obese, we have not ruled out doing more in the future.”

This is then indicated by the increased focus on the growing obesity problem in the UK and helping to encourage healthy eating in children as well as a healthier lifestyle for adults.

The Royal Society for Public Health

Since the implementation of this Sugar Tax, the Royal Society For Public Health has been calling for better regulations surrounding the placement of fast food establishment on the route home from schools. With recent studies showing an 80% backing from the public to remove fast food advertisements from outside the school gates as well as a ban placed on unhealthy fast food outlets from within a 5-minute walk of school gates in order to tackle the growing issue of childhood obesity. Though these changes are just being talked about at this time, it could be a perfect opportunity for improving your diet on a budget as this will encourage healthier eating for the family on the route home from school.

The RSPH is also working to encourage children and parents to work together for a healthier lifestyle. With recommendations to the Department Of Transport surrounding the cost of zebra crossings as well as recommendations surrounding a school streets scheme to help transform the roads outside of schools to encourage children to walk to and from school. This is all part of the bigger picture to tackle obesity in children as well as adults as part of the Change4life program.

The Sugar Tax

The sugar tax was part of a much larger plan to achieve a reduction of 20% by 2020 under the Sugar Reduction and Wider Reformulation. This plan particularly applies to the confectionery industry for chocolate and other sweets that are high in sugar content. Though this Sugar Tax has been implemented, it is important to note that sugary soft drinks are not covered by the sugar reduction program as they are instead covered by the Soft Drinks Industry Levy.

With this in mind, there is reason to suggest that the British government will continue to implement changes that can contribute to a healthier lifestyle for the UK as a whole. Whether this will be in the form of a government scheme similar to those listed above, or a new law passed in parliament, only time will tell as to how the British Government will tackle this growing problem.

 

Being a vegetarian

Being a vegetarian

Vegetarianism or regular meat-free days are a way of life for many and World Vegetarian Day on October 1st can be an ideal opportunity to raise awareness of some of the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. It also enables a wider discussion about the different diets that people follow which can help educate and inform young children.

A vegetarian diet is devoid of any foods that contain any part of an animal.  This also includes fish, shellfish.  The staples of such a diet include grains, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit.  There are also different types of vegetarian such as lacto-vegetarians who eat dairy products but avoid eggs, and vegans.  Vegans do not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other products, which are derived from animals. Estimates from the last National Diet and Nutrition Survey suggest that 2% of the UK population are vegetarian, which is more than 1.2 million people, with teenagers amongst the largest group. Individuals choose this lifestyle for a variety of reasons including health, environmental, religion, cultural or humanitarian.

Generally a vegetarian diet can be a healthy way of life and research suggests that vegetarians have less propensity to arthritis, heart disease, cancer and inflammatory conditions than meat eaters. The health benefits of vegetarianism is thought to be due to the diet tending to be higher in fibre and lower in saturated fats. There are some concerns that the diet may be deficient in essential nutrients such as vitamin A, iron, zinc, omega-3’s and vitamin D which is why it’s important to focus on nutrient dense foods, a variety of different foods and avoiding foods that can compromise health.

Many of these essential nutrients are found in much higher quantities in meat and in a more readily available form for the body. One important nutrient to be aware of is vitamin B12, which is only available from animal produce, therefore vegans specifically should check levels and possibly supplement. Low levels can result in high levels of homocysteine, which is a marker for cardiovascular disease. With this in mind understanding foods to avoid and foods to focus on can be helpful.

Foods to Avoid:

  • Many vegetarian meals tend to be high in full-fat dairy, typically using cheese as the protein source. Try to focus on variety for protein and avoid too much full-fat dairy.
  • Too many starchy foods high in white refined products such as flour and sugar should be reduced/avoided. These foods tend to be inflammatory and contain little nutrition for the body.

Foods to Focus On:

  • Protein: Vegetarian sources include lentils, quinoa, beans, brown rice, peas, nuts and seeds, which all contain zinc required by the body.
  • Green leafy vegetables are important for many nutrients including calcium and magnesium. Eat plenty of kale, spinach, cabbage, watercress, rocket etc.
  • Good sources of carbohydrates include sweet potato, turnips, swede, oats, barley, millet, buckwheat and rye.
  • Red or yellow vegetables, carrots, tomatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato and leafy green vegetables can all provide beta-carotene. This can be converted into vitamin A, though it’s important to understand that conversion rates tend to be low.
  • Nuts, seeds, oils and avocados are high in essential fat.
  • Mushroom and peas contain B vitamins.
  • Iron rich foods include leafy green vegetables, eggs, beans, seeds, pulses and nuts. Eaten alongside vitamin C rich foods, such as kiwi, cherries and peppers helps aid absorption of iron.

Model a Meat-Free Day:

Talking about different ways of eating is invaluable in childcare settings and enables children to share the diets they have. In October to link with World Vegetarian Day would provide a great opportunity to model a meat-free day in your setting. The day can focus on eating vegetarian foods, trying new vegetables, art with pulses and some hands-on food preparation.

About the author
The Food TeacherThe Food Teacher, 
Katharine Tate, has worked as a teacher and education consultant internationally in primary and secondary schools for over 20 years.

Qualified as a registered nutritional therapist, Katharine, combines her unique education and nutrition expertise to offer schools, organisations and families advice, education programmes, practical workshops, and individual/family clinical consultations. She has also published 2 books: ‘Heat-Free & Healthy’ and ‘No Kitchen Cookery for Primary Schools’.

(For more information, visit her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter or email her at info@thefoodteacher.co.uk. You can also visit her website to find out more and subscribe to her newsletter.)

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