Rethinking Fats: Did We Get It Wrong All Along?

Oct 17, 2023

For years, dietary fats have received a bad rap, often being blamed for various health issues, including heart disease and obesity. However, recent research has shed new light on the subject, revealing that not all fats are created equal and that some fats are essential for our health. In this blog, we'll explore the surprising health benefits of eating fats and why they should be a part of a balanced diet.


Understanding Dietary Fats

Dietary fats are one of the three main macronutrients that provide energy, support cell growth, and help our bodies absorb certain vitamins. The other macronutrients include carbohydrate and protein which we’ve covered in other posts.

There are several types of dietary fats, including:

1. Saturated Fats: These fats are commonly found in animal products like meat and dairy, as well as in some tropical oils like coconut oil. While excessive intake of saturated fats can be harmful, they play essential roles in the body, such as providing structural integrity to cell membranes.

2. Monounsaturated Fats: These fats are abundant in foods like olive oil, avocados, and nuts. They are known to have heart-healthy benefits and can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

3. Polyunsaturated Fats: This category includes omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, both of which are essential for the body but must be obtained through the diet. Omega-3s are found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts and are known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

4. Trans Fats: These are artificial fats created through hydrogenation, a process used in some processed foods. Trans fats are harmful and should be avoided as they are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and inflammation.



The Health Benefits of Dietary Fats


Heart Health

Contrary to popular belief, dietary fats can benefit heart health when consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet. Monounsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil, have been associated with reduced risk factors for heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, have been linked to lower levels of triglycerides and improved cholesterol profiles.


Brain Function

The brain is composed largely of fat, and adequate fat intake is crucial for cognitive function. Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, are known to support brain health and may reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline.


Skin and Hair Health

Fats play a role in maintaining healthy skin and hair. Essential fatty acids help keep the skin moist, supple, and can alleviate dryness and inflammation. They also contribute to the shine and strength of hair.


Vitamin Absorption

Certain vitamins, such as A, D, E, and K, are fat-soluble, meaning they require dietary fats for absorption. Without adequate fat intake, the body may struggle to absorb these essential vitamins.


Hormone Production

Fats are essential for the production of hormones in the body. Hormones play a vital role in regulating various physiological processes, including metabolism and immune function.


Satiety and Weight Management

Including healthy fats in your meals can help you feel full and satisfied, reducing overall calorie consumption. This can aid in weight loss by curbing excessive snacking and promoting better portion control.


Decrease Inflammation

Inflammation is a natural response of the body's immune system to injury or infection. It serves as a protective mechanism, helping the body heal and defend itself. However, chronic inflammation can lead to various health issues, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders. Emerging research has shown that certain types of dietary fats play a crucial role in modulating inflammation. Contrary to the belief that all fats are bad for health, some fats can actually help decrease inflammation.


The fats that have been linked to increasing inflammation include saturated fats and transfats found in artificial or ‘factory-made’ food (eg crisps and biscuits and ready-meals).

The unsaturated fats in contrast have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

These fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3s, found in fatty fish like salmon, flaxseeds, and walnuts, are known for their strong anti-inflammatory effects.

Omega-6s, on the other hand, are found in vegetable oils like corn and soybean oil, and while they are essential for health, excessive consumption can lead to an imbalance that promotes inflammation.

Maintaining a balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is essential. An imbalance, where omega-6s dominate, can contribute to chronic inflammation. Omega-3s help counteract this imbalance.


Incorporating Omega-3s into Your Diet


To harness the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, consider the following dietary strategies:

1. **Fatty Fish**: Incorporate fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout into your diet regularly. Aim for at least two servings per week. 

2. **Flaxseeds and Chia Seeds**: These seeds are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid. You can add them to yoghurt for a healthy dose of omega-3s.

3. **Walnuts**: Walnuts are a convenient source of omega-3s and can be eaten as a snack or added to salads and baked goods.

4. **Supplements**: If it's challenging to get enough omega-3s through diet alone, consider fish oil supplements. However, consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplementation regimen.



The demonization of all fats in the past was an oversimplification of a complex nutritional topic. While it's essential to limit the intake of unhealthy fats, such as trans fats and excessive saturated fats, it's equally important to recognize the health benefits of dietary fats. Incorporating sources of healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, fatty fish, and olive oil, into a healthy diet can contribute to overall well-being and aid weight loss without feeling hungry.

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