Shona Wilkinson

Shona Wilkinson

You need it more than you think

Our body needs fats for many reasons to keep us alive and healthy.  Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist at SuperfoodUK.com the online shopping destination for all things health and wellbeing explains, “Perhaps most importantly, fats are needed for all our cell membranes, providing a fluid structure to let substances in and out of the cell, while maintaining its shape. They’re vital for our brain too: about 60% of the dry weight of the brain is made up of fat, including the omega-3 fat DHA as found in oily fish and fish oils. DHA is needed for vision too. Fats also allow nerve signals to pass around our body properly, as they make up a substance called myelin that insulates nerve cells. Many of our hormones, such as testosterone and oestrogen, are made from fats. And we even need fats to absorb vital fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, which is vital for immunity and eyesight, and vitamin K, which supports bone health and healthy blood clotting.”

Dr Glenville

Dr Glenville

Is fat really fattening?!

How many times have you heard ‘fat is fattening’? According to Dr. Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritionist and author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar (www.marilynglenville.com) it’s a big, fat diet lie. “Please forget the myth that fat is fattening; it is sugar and refined carbohydrates that make you fat. Sugar is nothing more than empty calories – it gives you no nutritional value at all. Worse than that, because sugar is devoid of nutrients, your body has to use other nutrients stored in your system in order to digest the sugar. So, not only are you getting absolutely no vital vitamins and minerals from the sugar, but your body is also losing valuable nutrients just by eating it. Hence, sugar causes a double whammy on the nutritional front and can actually create nutritional deficiencies.”

Read the labels!

“When food companies create low fat food what they normally do is remove the fat and replace it with sweeteners, artificial flavourings and additives to replace the mouth feel and flavour you lose from removing the fat” says Shona.

Buying low fat products doesn’t necessary make you healthier. “You can’t trust food producers and shops. Don’t fall for the marketing hype on the front of the packet and become a label reader – look at the nutrition information, list of ingredients and amount of sugar” add Dr Glenville.

What to chose?

Butter over margarine

Many people swapped over to margarine in the 1980’s finding it easier to spread straight from the fridge and sold on the idea that it does not contain cholesterol like butter. “Margarine is vegetable oil that has been hydrogenised (creating Trans fatty acids) to make it sold at room temperature. It also contains added emulsifiers, colorants and various artificial ingredients, these processes extend the shelf life of the fats and harden them making them easier to use in manufacturing.

We used to think that margarine was the healthier option as it had no cholesterol but now it is the trans fats in margarine that are believed to be harmful to health, possibly leading to unwanted weight gain, insulin resistance, and inflammation. Concern about these health issues and the move towards more natural foods has led to many people to return to butter” explains Wilkinson.

Butter is more expensive than margarine but it not only tastes better, but also contains no added ingredients and is not highly processed. “Butter does contain cholesterol but there is now good evidence to suggest that cholesterol from diet does not contribute to heart disease. It is also high in vitamins A, D and E and butyric acid, which the lining of our large intestine uses as its primary source of energy, it also has potent anti-inflammatory affects. The best butter to buy is from grass fed cows, which is higher in vitamin K2 and omega 3 than butter from grain fed cows” adds Shona.

Eggs

Eggs are nature’s most perfect food and a wonderful source of easily accessible, high quality protein. “Let go of any old-fashioned thinking that eggs are ‘bad’ for you as they contain cholesterol. The choline in the egg yolk can actually help prevent the accumulation of cholesterol and fat in the liver! Egg yolks are a fabulous source of choline (as phosphatidyl choline), which is the universal ‘building block’ for ALL cell membranes – especially important for the brain! Egg whites contain adequate amounts of all essential amino acids; in fact, eggs are used as the standard against which all protein is measured. They are also a good source of iodine, which is essential for proper thyroid function” says Wilkinson.

Full Fat Dairy

For years we have been told that whole milk is a less healthy choice than skimmed milk. Whole milk may contain more fat and therefore seem the unhealthy option. “In fact, the fat can actually help us to absorb certain vitamins – such as vitamin A and vitamin D – that are found in (or added to) milk. These vitamins are fat-soluble, so there are only very small levels of fat in what we are eating, they won’t be absorbed as well as they can be when consumed with higher-fat foods” explains Cassandra Barns, Nutritionist.