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Why you should be eating (healthy) fats

Too much fat is not good for us, but that doesn’t mean we need to ditch it altogether. Here’s why your body needs healthy fats.

One small thing:Ditch creamy, ready-made salad dressings – use olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead.

As a macronutrient, fats have a solid place in our diet. But it’s the healthy type of fats your body needs – and that’s why it’s important to distinguish between the good and the bad fats.

Fats are categorised into different groups:

  • Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are often present in plants (e.g. avocados) and plant oils (e.g. olive and sesame oils). These fats are also found in oily fish such as mackerel, pilchards and salmon.
  • Trans fatty acids (trans fats) are known as “bad” fats and are harmful to our bodies. They are often found in processed foods like takeaways, frozen meals, chips, sausages and pastries.
  • Saturated fats, while not as bad as trans fats, should be limited for better heart health, and are found in fatty meat and full-cream dairy products.
So why do our bodies need the good fats?

Because our bodies are unable to make their own fatty acids, we need to make sure our diets provide enough through sources of healthy fats. Quite simply, our bodies need fatty acids (like triglycerides, cholesterol and omega 3 and 6) to function.

These healthy fats:

  • Help regulate our metabolism.
  • Store and distribute energy.
  • Protect vital organs with a little bit of cushioning.
  • Help transport the minerals in the nutrients we eat, such as vitamins A, D, E and K, which are fat-soluble, and therefore need to be stored in fat in order to be carried to the bloodstream to do their job. Without healthy fats, these nutrients are useless to us.
  • Reduce inflammation and improve brain function.
How to eat more healthy fats
  1. Choose the right oils
    Extra-virgin olive oil is an excellent choice for cooking and can even be used as a salad dressing. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study that identified many health benefits of this oil, including helping to prevent heart disease and stroke. Switch your usual cooking oil for olive oil and reap the benefits.
  2. Choose canned fish
    Ditch the bacon and add sardines or mackerel to your savoury breakfast. These fish types contain crucial omega-3 fatty acids.
  3. Say hello to healthy, full-fat snacks
    Stock your kitchen with avocados, nuts and seeds – all of these foods contain healthy fats, and can be used in various ways, from guacamole to homemade trail mix.
  4. Go nuts
    Sprinkle walnuts and sunflower seeds over your morning oats for a healthy fat boost.

If you have a question for our dietitians, click here, or to find a dietitian in your area, visit adsa.org.za. To get in touch with us, email healthhotline@pnp.co.za.

References:
2013, Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. The New England Journal of Medicine, DOI
https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/saturated-fats
https://www.livescience.com/9109-fats-body.html
https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000747.htm