Top Nutrition Tip: Eat more fat

What, you say? More fat? Yes, but I’m talking about the healthier unsaturated fats.

Top Nutrition Tip:  Eat more fat
What, you say?  More fat?  Yes, but I’m talking about the healthier unsaturated fats.


These include the omega 3 fats found in oily fish (sardine, tuna, salmon), lean lamb, oils (fish oil, flaxseed and evening primrose) and some nuts such as walnuts.  Omega 3 reduces the risk of heart disease by lowering triglycerides, total and LDL-cholesterol (often called the ‘bad’ cholesterol) and has a beneficial effect on platelet aggregation (these are like rubber-neckers at an accident, hanging around in the blood stream) making them less sticky. 


Whole flaxseeds are not effective as the enzymes of the human digestive tract are unable to breakdown the outer hull, and as a result the seeds pass directly out of the body, often having a laxative effect and without influencing heart health. 


Use walnut oils, flaxseed oils and those with added omega 3 as part of salad dressing, poured directly on to salad or with balsamic vinegar dressings.  Add or pour directly on to cooked foods (fish, chicken) as these oils are not suitable for cooking and are not tolerant to heat. Watch the amount used if weight control is an issue - and don’t forget that ‘light’ or ‘lite’ oil is light in colour and flavour not lower in kilojoules.


Omega 6 fats are the second healthier fats, also unsaturated, and found in wholegrains, seeds and seed oils such as sunflower, safflower, sesame and margarines.  These fats also assist in lowering cholesterol and our diets do to not generally contain sufficient amounts.  Many people are aware of the need to increase omega 3 but are less aware of the low intake of omega 6.  Many spreads contain a good source of omega 6 along with wholegrains, nuts and seeds.  Both omega 3 and omega 6 are polyunsaturated fats that have beneficial effect on heart health and provide the essential fatty acids.  


The key to improving the heart health of many New Zealanders is to get the right balance in their fat intake by increasing their intake of wholegrains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fish (especially the oily varieties) and decreasing the saturated fat (butter, cream, higher fat milk, dripping added to food and cooking, fats on meat, coconut cream and cheese are all examples).  At least we can use thinner slices, smaller servings and reduce the frequency these foods appear in the regular eating pattern. 


Remember, maintaining the other lifestyle factors that assist heart health (maintaining a desirable body weight, not smoking and regular exercise) is also just as important.

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