There is huge confusion around fats in our diet and whether they help us or harm us. Here are some core truths:
fat is absolutely vital for our body's function. It is necessary for:
cell membrane integrity
vitamin absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
we need about 30% of our daily calorie intake to be from as good quality fat as possible.
all fats are made up of 3 types of fat and our body needs all 3 of them to be in proportion:
saturated fat. These are the fats that are solid at room temperature (such as butter, lard, coconut oil, cheeses, meats, cream etc.). This type of fat should be consumed in small amounts only, as the same way it solidifies at room temperature, it also solidifies in our arteries and hardens them, leading to blockages.
unsaturated fat (this is split into mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fat), known as the "good fats" and should form the majority of fat intake. Unsaturated fat can be found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring etc.)
essential fatty acids are types of poly-unsaturated fats that are essential because our body cannot produce them on its own, it must take them from its diet. The most important of these are the Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. For optimal health, they must be ingested at an approximate 3:1 ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6.
research shows that on average we consume 16 times more Omega 6 fatty acids than Omega 3's. Excess Omega 6 fatty acids cause chronic inflammation, which in turn causes heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's etc. The reason why our Omega 6 intake is so high is because it is largely found (along with harmful trans-fats) in so-called "vegetable" oils, as well as seed oils (sunflower, corn, rapeseed etc.) and margarines. These in turn are largely found in processed foods such as crisps, cookies, cakes, biscuits, ready meals, condiments etc.
good quality extra virgin olive oil has by nature the perfect proportion for the human body, of saturated, mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fat. It contains NO Omega 6 fatty acids and does therefore not have an adverse effect on the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6.
What further distinguishes good quality extra virgin olive oil from all other oils and fats is that it contains antioxidants that other oils/fats don't contain. Antioxidants add a whole other layer of a multitude of health benefits, making olive oil the original superfood and health elixir. This subject requires a separate article of its own
In conclusion, to optimise your fat intake for better health you should:
avoid processed and packaged foods
increase your intake of oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel etc), fresh vegetables of all kinds and whole foods
replace seed and vegetable oils with good quality olive oil or avocado oil as much as possible
reduce your intake of saturated fats (lard, butter, coconut oil, cheese, cream and meat - especially red meat) as much as possible.
Let's not forget that nothing feels as good as healthy!