Fat | Setting The Record Straight

Posted by Josh Gape on

For decades major organisations like the British Heart Foundation and the American Heart Association have been lying to us about fat. They’ve painted a black and white picture; saturated fat should be kept to a minimum, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy in small amounts and trans fats should be avoided wherever possible. However, when in comes to fat, there are different types of each, some of which are good and some of which are bad. Let’s break it down and set the record straight. 

 

Why Good Fat is Great 

If you’ve read any of our articles on the Ketogenic Diet, you’ll know that fat can be a great fuel source for the body. Certain types of this macronutrient are also essential for survival, playing a vital role in; the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K (fat-soluble vitamins), brain health, cholesterol transportation, hormone creation, cell repair, gut health, regulating body temperature, immune function, skin / hair health, organ insulation and the list goes on. 

 

Why Bad Fat is Deadly 

Bad fat, specifically artificially created trans fats and hydrogenated vegetable oils provide no benefit to the human body whilst causing serious damage. They increase bad cholesterol (oxidised LDL), reduce good cholesterol (HDL), promote inflammation and damage blood vessels. In turn this increases the risk of major diseases, such as; cancer, heart disease and obesity. 

 

Different Types of Fat 

Depending on their chemical structure, fats have been grouped in to four main categories: 

 

Saturated 

Benefits: Cell membrane maintenance and the primary storage form of energy. Pre-curser for Ketone creation, which can be used as fuel for the brain. Has antibacterial, antioxidant and antiviral properties, as well as aiding in gut health and cell repair. 

How to recognise: Most saturated fats are solid at room temperature. 

Tip: These are great for cooking because they’re not prone to oxidative damage from high heats. 

 

Good 

  • Grass-Fed Butter

  • Grass-Fed Ghee

  • Coconut Oil

  • Coconut Milk

  • MCT Oil

  • Grass-Fed Meat

  • Grass-Fed Raw Dairy

Bad 

  • Processed Meat

  • Processed Cheese


Monounsaturated Fat 

Benefits: Reduces inflammation, lowers blood pressure, reduces oxidised LDL (bad cholesterol) and increases HDL (good cholesterol). 

How to recognise: Usually liquid at room temperature. 

Tip: These aren’t great for cooking and should be kept in a dark, sealed container as they can easily oxidise when exposed to light, heat or oxygen. 

 

Good 

  • Olives / Olive Oil

  • Avocado / Avocado Oil

  • Grass-Fed Meat

  • Nuts, e.g. Macadamias, Almonds, Cashews

Bad 

  • None

 

Polyunsaturated Fat 

There are two major types of polyunsaturated fat; Omega 3 and Omega 6. 

Benefits: Regulate gene expression, help in cell function and aid in the formation of cell membranes. 

How to recognise: Always liquid at room temperature. 

Tip: Definitely don’t cook with these as they are very susceptible to oxidative damage during cooking. 


Good 

  • Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines or mussels (Omega 3)

  • Flax Seeds and Walnuts (Omega 3)

  • Grass-fed meat and grass-fed animal products such as raw dairy and eggs (Omega 3 & 6)

  • Nuts (Omega 6)

Bad 

  • Industrial Processed & Refined Oils such as corn, soy, sunflower (Omega 6)

 

Trans Fat 

Benefits: Naturally occurring trans fats like CLA have been associated with improving insulin sensitivity, lowering the risk of heart disease and managing type 2 diabetes. 

How to recognise: Present in fried foods and the majority of supermarket snacks such as biscuits and chocolate. 

Tip: Be practical. Try to avoid these as much as possible but unfortunately never eating a trans fat isn’t really practical in modern society. If you do eat something with trans fat in it, don’t let it stress you out. At APE Nutrition we promote the 80/20 rule where you eat really well 80% of the time and allow yourself to relax a little 20% of the time. 


Good 

  • Grass-Fed Meat

  • Grass-Fed / Raw Dairy

Bad

  • Fried Foods

  • Biscuits

  • Cakes

  • Pastries

  • Chocolate

 

Conclusion 

A key commonality amongst bad fats is the level of processing and their Omega 3:6 ratio. All the bad fats listed above have undergone a huge amount of refinement, making them devoid of nutrients and potentially oxidised. They are also much higher in Omega 6 and lower in Omega 3. It’s thought that ancestrally we would have been eating Omega 3 to Omega 6 in a 1 to 1 ratio. However, modern estimates suggest that the average person is eating 10 - 20 times more Omega 6 than Omega 3 due largely to the huge consumption of processed and refined foods. This has been associated with an increase in inflammatory diseases, such as; heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, autoimmune disease and the list goes on.

 

In summary, if you’re eating whole unprocessed food in amounts that align with your macronutrient requires, you don’t need to worry about fat. Avoid processed meat, refined oils and trans fats and you’re golden! 


If you want to find out more, Chris Kresser, arguably the best functional medicine doctor in the world has two great articles on the subject: 


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