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Confusion around Fats Could Scupper Kiwi Health Efforts

Confusion around Good and Bad Fats Could Scupper Kiwi Health Efforts This Summer

Lack of understanding means Kiwis may be missing out on healthy fats, says leading New Zealand nutritionist.

According to leading New Zealand nutritionist Angela Berrill, many Kiwis still don't understand the key differences between 'good' and 'bad' fats in food, and where healthy types of fat can be found. This lack of understanding could be sabotaging healthy eating and weight loss, something more people will be thinking about in the run up to Christmas and summer. It has also been a hot topic since September when the Ministry of Health revealed New Zealand's obesity rate has surged.

This warning comes after research released earlier this year by the International Food Information Council in the USA revealed that, while sixty six percent of people are trying to limit their consumption of fat and trans-fatty acids, a further twenty percent are attempting to cut down on polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats – the fats that nutrition experts advise we eat more of. When asked which dietary fats they consider to be healthy, nearly one in five said they did not consider any fats to be healthy.

"A lot of the people I speak to are confused about the differences between saturated, and unsaturated (including polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) fats," says Angela. "On top of that, I have come across individuals who think all fat is bad."

"The idea that people need to avoid all fat entirely in order to lose weight and become healthier is a myth, but one that has been deeply ingrained in public consciousness for decades. We need fat to provide us with energy, aid the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and to supply us with essential fatty acids which we need for a range of functions in our bodies. Research undertaken over the years has shown the type of fat in a person’s diet can play a key role in their health. Bad fats, meaning trans and saturated fats, increase the risk of certain diseases. Good fats, meaning monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can do just the opposite – they are good for the heart and other parts of the body, such as the brain"

Fortunately, there are a number of things that New Zealanders can do to assure that they are consuming enough of the health beneficial 'good fats.'

"It's all about moderation. Of course, you can still eat some foods containing saturated fat. However, you can reduce the amount of saturated fat you eat by choosing leaner cuts or by trimming the visible fat off meat, removing the skin from chicken, draining the fat off mince or choosing lower fat dairy products. Even Christmas dinner can be made healthier, by serving turkey, a meat that is lower in saturated fat than most other meats, and using a bit of olive or canola oil to cook with, rather than butter "says Angela. "As for the healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, there are hundreds of ways to incorporate them into your daily diet. Try sprinkling a few raw almonds on your cereal in the morning, including avocado or salmon in your lunchtime salad or sandwich, or snacking on a small handful of raw cashews (about 15 nuts) or Brazil nuts (three per day) throughout the day."

"Also remember that all fat, regardless of whether it is 'good' fat or ‘bad’ fat, is still high in calories. Therefore, it is important that people eat any high fat food in moderation" adds Angela. "Nutritional guidelines recommend 30 to 33 percent of our total calories come from fat per day. Make sure the majority of that comes from the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated sources and you will be rewarded with lower cholesterol and LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol, which are protective factors against cardiovascular disease."

Angela's Guide to Good and Bad Fats

Polyunsaturated fats (good): found in vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, corn oil and soybean oil, certain types of nuts, such as almonds, walnuts and pistachios and in oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and trout

Monounsaturated fats (good): foods rich in monounsaturated fats include canola and olive oil, almonds, pistachio, hazelnuts, cashew, macadamia nuts, olives and avocados

Saturated Fat (bad): foods that contain a high proportion of saturated fat include animal fats such as cream, cheese, butter and fatty meats; as well as certain vegetable products such as coconut oil, palm kernel oil and many prepared foods

Trans Fats (bad): found primarily in processed foods. The fast food, snack food and baked goods industries use trans fats to increase shelf life and decrease refrigeration requirements

ENDS

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