Are you confused about fat? You are certainly not alone.
The notion that dietary fat, and in particular saturated fat, is both fattening and increases our risk of heart disease has dominated dietary guidelines for years.
But then, just last year, research emerged that cast doubt on this supposedly rock-solid link between fat and heart disease. Fat, it was suggested, had been wrongly vilified. And, as a consequence, our intake of both sugar and processed foods have been sharply rising over recent decades, in correlation with increased rates of obesity, type-2 diabetes and heart disease.
So where does this leave fat? Contrary to common misconceptions, a 'low fat' claim on a label does not equate to a healthier choice; it can in fact mean quite the opposite. Fat gives food flavour and texture, and if manufacturers remove it from a food, they need to replace it with something else. Sugar, artificial sweeteners, thickeners and flavourings are all used as a fat substitute in low-fat or fat-free products.
Not only this, but dietary fat has a wealth of important health properties, from protecting the brain and heart, to producing hormones, to keeping skin glowing and hair and nails strong. From a weight loss point of view, fat can help with satiety (it fills you up), and keeps the metabolism revved up. Moderation is of course still key, but here are five foods where you can feel happy about choosing full-fat:
When it comes to yoghurts, it is very easy to be confused as to what a healthy option is. There are rows and rows of choice in the supermarkets, boasting a multitude of different health claims.
Keep it very simple. Choose full-fat, natural probiotic yoghurt, which contains beneficial bacteria that promotes the health of your digestive system. Always check the label – there should be just 2 ingredients - whole milk and live or bio cultures.
As well as avoiding low-fat, steer clear of fruit 'flavoured' yoghurts (which sometimes don't even contain real fruit but artificial flavourings), and 'yoghurt drinks' which are also likely to contain sugar and other sweeteners
Low-fat or zero fat salad dressings are an unexpected source of 'hidden' sugars and salt. Not only this but you actually need fat in your salad dressing to help absorb the carotenoids - important health-boosting nutrients found in the vegetables in our salad. These carotenoids can be identified by colour, and include beta-carotene (orange, and found in carrots and sweet potato), lycopene (red, and found in tomatoes) and lutein (green, and found in green leafy vegetables).
The healthiest option is to skip the shop-made dressings completely, and make your own dressing by combining extra virgin olive oil with balsamic vinegar or lemon juice. Olive oil is a very rich source of monounsaturated fat, shown to lower blood pressure and improve heart health.
A reduced-fat peanut butter may boast a slightly lower calorie content, but this is not a trade-off worth making. Why? Because to lower the fat content, the food manufacturers are using less peanuts, and instead replacing them with ingredients like sugar, corn syrup (more sugar), and
Plus, in further support of the full-fat version, most of the fat contained in peanuts is the heart-healthy, monounsaturated type. Instead of the lowered fat version, look for a peanut butter with a minimal ingredient list - the best choice is 100% natural peanut butter.
Forget white egg omelettes, always eat the whole egg. Our fear of egg yolks has been present ever since we were led to believe that they were packed with fatty cholesterol and would increase our risk of heart disease.
On the back of newer evidence, we now know that dietary cholesterol has very little impact on our blood cholesterol levels. The egg white is where the protein is, but all the wonderful nutrients such as choline, omega-3 fats, antioxidants, vitamin D and vitamin B12, are found in the yolk.
Always choose free-range eggs; not only are they from happier chickens, but studies show that they contain a higher proportion of nutrients.
You might gasp at the sheer indulgence of 'blue top' milk, but science shows that watery skimmed milk has negligible benefits compared to its full-fat counterpart.
In fact, a recent scientific review found that people who eat full-fat dairy are no more likely to develop heart disease and type 2 diabetes than people who stick to low-fat dairy. And when it comes to weight gain, and in particular fat around themiddle, full-fat dairy may actually be better for you. By drinking skimmed milk, you could also be missing out on important fat soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D and E and K.