‘Fats are for fatties, right? Wrong.’

Dietary fats, called triglycerides, cholesterol and phospholipids when showing off, can be categorised in a variety of ways such as: animal/vegetable, saturated/non-saturated, and b@st@rd. (I should explain that b@st@rd fat, more commonly referred to as ‘fat b@st@rd’, is best considered a high capacity storage medium rather than a useful food source.) As well as calories, the fat in foods contain important minerals and vitamins.

Fats have had a bad press for decades following the perfect three-way, political, commercial and medical storm in the 1950/60s, as described by Robert Lustig, of:

  1. Richard Nixon (I’m not kidding; really; honestly!) subsidising American corn farmers, the intention being to stop international cane sugar price fluctuation affecting presidential elections. Corn syrup is 100% glucose and the traditional sweetener of the American poor but can be converted enzymatically to HFCS (high fructose corn syrup; glucose 50%:50% fructose; fructose is x1.5 sweeter than glucose). This subsidy made home grown American sugar cheap and plentiful.
  2. The Walmart-ification of American grocery shopping with the commercial imperative for long shelf life packaged food.
  3. The pre-computer-age bungled & incomplete statistical analysis of seminal heart disease epidemiological study data; it was concluded half way through the analysis that fat was the villain when, had the stats been finished, it was sugar…

So we got food with fat & fibre stripped out and sweetened with cheap abundant HFCS to make it palatable. (And, no, I don’t have a theory about who shot Kennedy or how the moon landings were faked.)

Animal fats, mostly more ‘saturated’ (technically: carbon-carbon single bonds so more space for hydrogen) and therefore more solid were wrongly identified as particularly bad. This drove the hysterical conversion to vegetable fats that are less ‘saturated’ (more carbon=carbon double bonds so less space for hydrogen) and therefore more liquid.

It is now known that transfats are really, really bad for health and should be avoided completely.

To make vegetable oils (liquid) more useful in processed food manufacture, they are hardened (made more solid) by the chemical process of hydrogenation, and unsaturated fats treated in this way are known as ‘transfats’ (also on labels ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘shortened’) It is now known that transfats are really, really bad for health and should be avoided completely; fortunately, this is getting a lot easier as companies drop transfats completely and governments ban them altogether. Further bad news is that frying (especially at high temperature) in supposedly healthy sunflower or corn oil generates toxic transfats and aldehydes although it might cheer you up to know that olive oil, butter and lard are much healthier in this particular regard.

Enough of the science and paranoia; here’s the advice.

Choose lean meats and cut off visible fat. I love the occasional bacon bap at the caff after a nasty interval session but carefully dissect off every speck of fat and dry the bacon on serviettes to get rid of cooking fat; ok, I’m weird.

Eggs being bad for you on account of cholesterol is bollox. It’s the margarine (transfats) & sugar that’s killing you.

Eggs being bad for you on account of cholesterol is bollox – it’s the margarine (transfats) & sugar that’s killing you. Milk, butter & yoghurt are good for you (minerals, vitamins, protein, milk sugar – lactose) as long as you don’t guzzle them. Fats in seeds, (non-sugared) nuts and olive oil etc are good for you (Mediterranean diet) but watch the calorie content of nuts. Choose the palm oil-free peanut butter and drain the excess oil on opening. Reject anything with transfats (also labelled hydrogenated, shortened, solidified vegetable fat).