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Healthy Fats

Healthy Fats

Facts About Fats

Fats often get a bad press as most people associate fats with weight gain and see it as the enemy.

While it is true overconsumption of fat can cause weight gain, fat is actually incredibly beneficial for every cell function in your body and essential for life.

GM Fitness would like to share with you the many fabulous facts about fats, that we hope will help demystify some common misconceptions regarding fat.

If the mear mention of the word Cholesterol conger up images of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease in your mind, then perhaps it is time to rethink what you have learned.

Cholesterol is necessary for the production of several hormones that are used to maintain homeostasis within your body.

Cholesterol is an important molecule in the body, but did you know that most of the cholesterol needed by our bodies is made by our own liver? The remaining cholesterol is obtained through the foods we consume. Persistently high cholesterol levels can be detrimental to our heart and blood vessels, but cholesterol also serves some very important functions in our body, including:

Serving as a precursor for many hormones, including Testosterone and Estrogen

Maintaining cell membrane integrity and fluid

Contributing to the formation of bile acids

Identifying Fats

Low density fats "Bad fats" LDL

LDL Cholesterol (Bad) When too much LDL (bad) cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. Together with other substances, it can form plaque, this is a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, heart attack or stroke can result.

An easy way to remember your HDL from your LDL cholesterol is to think of a hoes pipe.

Imagine that you have two hoes pipes, the first pipe contains LDL low density lipo proteins, this hoes is running slowly because of its low pressure and contains a gravy like liquid and is dribbling out of the pipe.

The second pipe contains HDL high density lipo protein this is a lovely clear fluid that is under high pressure and is spewing out like a fireman`s or firewoman`s hoes.

High Density Fat

High Cholesterol "Good fats" HDL (Good)

About one fourth to one third of blood cholesterol is carried by high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL cholesterol is known as "good" cholesterol, because high levels of HDL seem to protect against heart attack. Low levels of HDL (less than 40 mg/dL) also increase the risk of heart disease. Medical experts think that HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it's passed from the body. Some experts believe that HDL removes excess cholesterol from arterial plaque, slowing its build up.

Triglyceride is a form of fat made in the body. Elevated triglycerides can be due to overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption and a diet very high in carbohydrates (60 percent of total calories or more). People with high triglycerides often have a high total cholesterol level, including a high LDL (bad) level and a low HDL (good) level. Many people with heart disease and/or diabetes also have high triglyceride levels.

Where we get these fats

Omega 6 (O-6) fatty acids are mostly in "land based foods”, such as animal products, for example, beef, pork, poultry, eggs, dairy (other than non fat- skim milk etc.), beans soy), grains (e.g corn, wheat, etc), nuts (walnuts have some O-3). Omega 3 are mostly in sea foods (especially fatty fish, although they have O-6 too. Wild fish get O-3 from krill. Land O-3 from foods such as (walnuts, purslaine, flax seed.

The fatty acid most commonly found in flax-seed oil is α-linolenic acid (ALA, 18 carbons and 3 double bonds). In fish oil, they are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20 carbons and 5 double bonds), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22 carbons and 6 double bonds). ALA converts to EPA and DHA, but in limited amounts. Best to get your EPA and DHA from actual wild salmon and your ALA from flax.

Some foods that contain omega 3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to life, because they're necessary for our health, but our bodies can't make them. We get them in our diets in foods such as salmon, tuna, and halibut. Other seafood including algae, krill some plants; and nut oils. They're crucial in brain development, and are anti-inflammatory. Helpful in the prevention of heart disease, depression, and bipolar disorder.

Where are the most common places to find omega 6 fats?

Omega 6 diet sources Omega 6 (O-6) fatty acids are mostly found within and foods, examples of these are animal products, beef, pork, poultry, eggs, dairy (other than non fat- skim milk etc.), beans (e.g. soy), grains (e.g corn, wheat, etc), nuts (walnuts have some O-3). Omega 3 are mostly in sea foods (especially fatty fish, although they have O-6 too. Wild fish get O-3 from krill. Land O-3 (walnuts, purslaine, flax not as well used)

Try to get most of your fat intake from whole food, unheated, unsaturated sources.

These fats are the ones that consistently show up as cardio protective because they either lower cholesterol or they come with other benefits such as antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Just remember that they are best for you in their natural, unheated, unsalted state, particularly hemp seeds, the only commonly used seed that contains GLA, a crucial, hormone regulating fat that is rare in other foods.

OILS (extra virgin olive oil for salads and grape seed are great for higher temperature cooking) Grape seed oil’s temperature can be raised quite high before it begins to smoke so it is less damaged by the heat. It also may help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. This oxidation is what does the damage to the cardiovascular system, and there is some evidence that the antioxidants in grape seeds help protect blood vessel damage that occurs with high blood pressure.

To maintain the beneficial properties of your oil and ensure it is as healthy as possible.

Heat your pan first to medium or high heat without any oil in it. Have your ingredients ready to go in before you add the oil and add the food as quickly as you can after you add the oil.

This will prevent sticking, preserving the oil, and give a better colour and texture to your food. Extra virgin olive oil is an excellent source of unsaturated fat. However, you only get the benefit if it is cold pressed and served raw and unheated.

AVOCADOS: Avocados are loaded with good (monounsaturated) fat. Some people are put off the idea of eating avocados, due to the fact that they are high in calories, consuming Avocado will ensure you benefit from a beautiful natural source of fat, not to mention high in nutrients and an impressive amino acid profile. Avocados are normally eaten raw so to ensure you obtain the good fat at its optimum as heating denatures the fruit.

They also contain potassium to regulate blood pressure and the nutrient foliate for heart health, add avocado to your salad to makes the fat soluble vitamins more available to your body.

Healthy Digestion

Chew your food properly, eat slowly and take time to chew your food properly it takes around 20min for your brain to realise you are full, slower eating also aids digestion and can help with weight management.

Eat whole foods and avoid processed and refined food, include healthy fats (omega 3,6,9), which you can always use a supplement, minimise refined sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and cooked starches.

Healthy digestive system is essential for absorbing nutrients, excreting waste, keeping unwanted substances/pathogens out of the body, and maintaining a healthy immune system and nervous system.

Elimination ridding the body of its normal metabolic waste will ensure a healthy colon and help flatter stomach as well reduce the risk of other diseases. Ground flax seeds, fruit and vegetables fibre and of course regular exercise support healthy elimination.

Exercise is important for many reasons, stress reduction, circulation/cardiovascular health, weight control, mood, sleep, blood sugar, bowel function, and respiratory health are all affected.

Getting outside and moving daily is a great goal, exercise is especially important for your brain's ability to produce "happy" hormones. Such as dopamine and serotonin.

Sleep will improve your memory and immune system, and is essential to balancing your hormonal systems, which rely on a circadian rhythm. Get between 7-8 hours of sleep every night for optimal wellness.

Get outside in the sun daily for optimal brain function, immune function, cancer prevention, mood, bone health, You will find no Vitamin D supplement on the market that is a better substitute then sunlight, be careful not to go into direct sunlight, try to go out between 9-11am, or 2 hours before sunset, and when using sunscreen.

Carbs And The Crash Diet

For a long time people have used fats as a scapegoat for the obesity epidemic that is rapidly overtaking the U.K and neighbouring countries. Major food companies encourage us to mass consume their product.

They have an inescapable influence on our day to day lives, from television , to poster and advertising boards telling us to buy and consume more products.

Thankfully our government is trying to make amends for the damage theses products have had on a large number of the population, measures such as providing food information relating to the nutritional content of supermarket products and their contents.

Other steps have included regulating how advertisements can be aired, avoiding exposing children to certain food adverts at times when children are more likely to watch broad casts.

When people describe carbs in a negative way we are referring to the sugar and refined process that strips the foods of its nutritional value, carbs are not bad, in fact most are good it's all about the choices you make.

Good Choices

Choose whole grain

Eat as much unrefined food as possible

Brown rice / Brown Pasta/ Brown Bread /instead of white

Fruit of all descriptions try to get your five a day

Vegetables as much as you like try to get your five a day

Stick to white lean meats, eggs, and fish

Chocolate 70% cocoa or above

Bad Choices





Fizzy drinks / carbonated

Too much alcohol


Take away

What is the big deal about Essential Fatty Acids?

Our bodies desperately need fats they are essential for life helping maintain healthy blood pressure, blood sugar levels, sleep cycles, skin, kidney, liver, lung and heart function and brain function.

They also help with the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K

Sources of Omega 3

Flaxseed oil (organically grown, cold pressed oil) All dark green leafy vegetables specifically raw grape leaves, kale, spinach, mustard greens, endive and dandelion greens.

Nuts and Seeds – hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, brazil nuts, wheat germ, wheat germ and canola oil.

Cold water fish – cooked Salmon and raw salmon in sushi are my favourites, but also consider sardines, smelt, shad, anchovies.

Omega 6 [Linoleic Acid]

The good news is that this essential fat is so abundant in most foods we eat on a daily basis that it is very difficult to develop a deficiency in omega 6. It is, however, only healthy in moderation.

It aids in brain and muscle growth and also plays a role in the manufacture of important hormones in the body. Particularly relevant to MS (Multiple sclerosis), It is of vital importance in the nervous system, as a transmitter of nerve impulses. Possible symptoms of a deficiency include:

Loss of Hair

Liver and kidney degeneration

Failure to heal wounds (indicating a run down immune system)



Sources of Omega 6

It is found, in abundance in the following plants and their cold pressed oils:

Nuts – Walnuts, pecan nuts, cashew nuts, pine nuts and pistachio nuts are all great sources of Omega 6 – eat liberally!

Seeds – Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds will provide Omega 6, but avoid sunflower oil which is not healthy.

Avocados – are rich in fibre, as well as other vitamins.

Olive oil and olives – easily added to your diet, this natural source will provide both Omega 3 and Omega 6.

Take control of your body

To find out why you crave certain foods, or feel hungry we must understand the mechanisms behind hunger.

Say hello to Leptin and Ghrenlin, these two important hormones help regulate your body weight.

Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that have been recognized to have a major influence on energy balance.

Leptin is a mediator of long term regulation of energy balance, suppressing food intake and thereby inducing weight loss.

Ghrelin on the other hand is a fast acting hormone seemingly playing a role in meal initiation.

What Is Leptin?

Leptin (Greek λεπτός (leptos) meaning thin)

Leptin is a hormone secreted by fat tissue cells and acts at its receptor in the brain to decrease food intake and promote energy expenditure including appetite, metabolism and hunger. It is the single most important hormone when it comes to understanding why we feel hungry or full. When present in high levels, it signals to our brain that we are full and can stop eating, when Leptin levels are low, we feel hungry and crave food.

Like insulin, leptin is part of a regulatory network that controls intake and expenditure of energy in the body, and a lack of leptin or resistance to it has been linked to obesity.

Excess weight can lead to leptin resistance, study found that high fructose diets can induce leptin resistance. These sugars actually impair the leptin’s ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and reach the hypothalamus. So even when the leptin levels are high, not enough is reaching the brain to tell the body to stop eating.

What is Ghrelin?

Ghrelin is a hormone released by the lining of the stomach that promotes feeding behaviour, decreasing Ghrelin levels could potentially help combat obesity or weight gain.

Ghrelin promotes the drive for food intake and maintains blood glucose during negative energy balance, as well as sub serving the rewarding nature of food.

This increased release of ghrelin from the stomach into the blood may explain why a person who skips breakfast also finds high calorie foods more appealing than low calorie foods due to the peaking of the hormone during periods of fasting.

Maintaining Your Health

Quit the crash diets you are not doing your body any favours by losing weight too quickly, If you are trying to lose weight, one thing you can do to help your body is to maintain a five to six day healthy lifestyle, eating healthy foods and have a day where you eat what you like.

When you cut calories dramatically, your body goes into survival mode, this then causes your Leptin level to plummet, in turn making you feel hungry and generally creating lower energy levels that trigger you to eat more than you normally consume.

Maintaining a healthy balance while slowly modifying your food intake will insure a steady and realistic way to get fit and in shape without a yoyo effect.

The occasional cheat or treat will unlikely do you harm as your body then senses the rush of fuel and boosts Leptin levels, increasing your metabolism and priming your body for fat loss. Occasional cheating helps ease your body down to lower daily leptin levels without making it feel too starved. That way, as you lose the weight, your body adjusts and realizes that the reduced Leptin levels are normal not irregular. Providing meals and foods are consumed at regular intervals throughout the day, this is one reason why it is important to eat meal roughly the same time of day or evening and not leave too long between meals, this leaves less time for Leptin to build up and more time for your new levels to normalise.

Be persistent, new research shows that it may take upwards of 6-9 months for your new levels of Leptin to normalise.

Too much sugar intake make your brain less sensitive to leptin, which causes you to eat more and pack on the pounds. Some foods have been shown to increase leptin activity and sensitivity.

The biggest connection scientists have found between Omega 3 Fatty Acids and leptin look promising for consumers of fish.

For fish lovers the news just keep getting better, Fish contains Omega 3 fatty acids researchers found that a group of people who ate a high proportion of fish every day had lower leptin levels, despite eating the same calorie load and having the same body fat as the fish free control group, suggesting that a fish rich diet increased their bodies sensitivity to leptin.

There’s good news, too, for those that are already overweight and leptin resistant it’s only temporary. So even if you’re overweight and likely leptin resistant, you can improve on that state. Unlike type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, which is very hard to reverse, leptin resistance is fairly correctable with a normal, healthy diet and exercise.

Something really simple that everyone can do to keep their leptin levels high and keep cravings under control is to sleep well.

When you go to sleep, your leptin levels naturally rise, but if you cut your sleeping short, your body tries to adjust by making you hungry again. Research has found that shorter sleep periods (6 hours or less instead of lower overall daily leptin levels, cause an increase in appetite, and even make people crave carbs and other fattening foods. It is important for your body to rest so it can maintain its natural hormonal balance, allowing you to look and feel your best.

Unsaturated Fat

Here are some good choices of unsaturated fats:





Canola oil


Soybean oil

Corn oil

Flax seeds

Flax seed oil


Peanut butter (without added hydrogenated oils or sugar)

Tub margarine/spreads (with 0g trans fats)


Olive oil

Sunflower oil

Safflower oil





Sesame Seeds

Pumpkin Seeds

Unsaturated fats are divided into monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, and both types are thought to have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels.

Monounsaturated fats help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol while also boosting HDL (good) cholesterol.

Polyunsaturated fats are also thought to help lower total and bad cholesterol. But monounsaturated fats tend to be favoured over polyunsaturated fats because some research suggests that polyunsaturated fats are less stable, and can reduce levels of good cholesterol as well as bad.

But let's not ignore polyunsaturated fats.

These are often a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, found mostly in cold-water fish, nuts, oils and seeds, and also in dark leafy greens, flaxseed oils and some vegetable oils.

One kind of omega-3 fatty acid is an "essential fatty acid," which cannot be manufactured by our bodies, so eating these foods is the only way to get them. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to lower blood pressure, combat LDL (bad) cholesterol, fight inflammation and protect the brain and nervous system.

Saturated Fats

Then there are bad fats, those apparently artery clogging saturated fats, from meat and dairy products.

An easy way to remember your saturated fats, is to remember these fats are solid at room temperature.

Saturated fats have been shown to directly raise total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Conventional advice has been to avoid them as much as possible. However, a meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in early 2010 found no link between saturated-fat intake and increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.

Still, the Harvard School of Public Health, in a study published in March 2010, found that replacing saturated fats with an equal amount of polyunsaturated fats did indeed reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 19 percent.

Perhaps, then, saturated fats may not be so bad after all, and they are certainly an important source of vitamins and minerals.

Plus, some argue that coconut oil and palm fruit oil, which are plant-based sources of saturated fats, may actually be beneficial because their particular fatty-acid make-up means they are metabolised differently in the body. Stearic acid, found in animal products and in some foods such as chocolate, gets a pass because much of it is converted by the body into oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat. Thus, saturated fats may be more beneficial, or at least more neutral, than we think

Trans fats are made by a chemical process called partial hydrogenation. Liquid vegetable oil (an otherwise healthy monounsaturated fat) is packed with hydrogen atoms and converted into a solid fat.

This made what seemed an ideal fat for the food industry to work with because of its high melting point, its creamy, smooth texture and its re-usability in deep-fat frying.

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Author: Gareth Myles

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