Healthy fats explained

Fat may be calorie dense, but it’s also one of the most important things we can put into our bodies. Our brain depends on adequate fat intake to ensure it’s working at its best, keeping cognitive function high. Not only this, fat plays an essential part in keeping our hormones, metabolism, membranes and reproductive system in check.

Vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene are all fat-soluble, which means you need fats in your diet to be able to absorb these. As you can see, fat is pretty useful!

However, it is important to ensure our intake of fats is mostly of the healthy or beneficial kind (these are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3s), whilst keeping our saturated fats as the minority of our fat intake, and working to minimise trans-fat intake as much as possible. Saturated fats are found in coconut oils or animal fats, as well as highly processed foods and poor quality oils, the latter two are where trans fats are mostly found.

Some of our favourite sources of plant-based healthy fats are nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds, walnuts, almonds, hemp seeds and chia seeds, olives and olive oil and avocados. These foods are also rich sources of a number of other nutrients, from vitamins and minerals to protein and fibre, making them incredibly nutrient dense.

Olive oils
Olives are a rich source of healthy, mono-unsaturated fats whilst remaining low in saturated fats. Olive oil is the juice of an olive once pressed, and extra-virgin is the most unrefined form of olive oil. The speed of pressing, variety of olive and freshness of the oil all play a part in the level of nutrients and flavour. Extra-virgin olive oil and olives are the main source of fat in the Mediterranean diet, which has shown to aid weight control and heart health.

Top tip: Aim to use a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil within 4-6 weeks of opening for freshness. For this reason, the smaller sized bottles are a great option.

Canola and rapeseed oils
Canola and rapeseed oil, both from the rapeseed plant, can get a bad rap from time to time, however these oils aren’t all bad. Firstly, they’re great for cooking with or making dressings, as their flavour profile is neutral and they are more heat stable than olive oil so can be used in more cooking applications.

Beyond this, they actually have a higher ratio of mono-unsaturated fatty acids to poly-unsaturated fatty acids, which is considered the most beneficial ratio for our health. They also have the least amount of saturated fats of all the vegetable oils (e.g. soybean, sunflower, rice bran oil). Cold pressed versions of these oils also retain more nutrients, much like cold pressed olive oil. The World Health Organisation recommends moderate use of canola and rapeseed oils as a part of a healthy diet.

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Meet the Nutritionist

Emma ‘Edamame’

Our in-house nutritionist Emma ‘Edamame’ was born and bred in mid Canterbury and has the health and wellbeing of Kiwis in mind at all times. As an NZ registered nutritionist (NZ Nutrition Society) with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Science from the University of Auckland, she makes sure we’re all getting our fresh dose of local veggies and our meals are full of nutritious substance – thanks for having our back Em (and our waistlines!). When it comes to New Zealand produce, Emma is a whizz, with fresh berries being her absolute fave. Intrigued to know what food this nutritionist couldn’t live without? Fresh fish and seafood, delivering on both flavour and nourishment. As well as ice cream, especially real fruit ice creams, in the summer time! Life’s all about a tasty balance, right?

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