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Demystifying Fat (Good vs. Bad)

Why fat has a bad reputation

Olive oils labelled “light” in supermarkets are a hangover from the 90s when fat was demonised and seen as the cause of heart disease and obesity. 

This caused a shift in food labelling and the removal of fat from food products during their processing.  The label  “light” in the olive oil world means light in colour (and not, coincidentally, in quality or flavour). This is misleading for consumers who might be looking for healthier options in the supermarket.

It is important to demystify fat and understand food labelling in order to find quality foods that are actually nutritious.  Food labels should help us understand how our food is processed and where it is from.

The effect of processing on nutritional value

The way food is processed and stored has huge implications on its nutritional value.  For example, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil signifies that when extracting the olive oil from the fruit, no chemicals or heat are used which can degrade the quality of the oil and remove the nutritional value of the good fats and vitamins in the oil.

Macronutrients for a balanced diet

For health, your body needs three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fat and protein. Out of these macronutrients, none has been both trashed and celebrated as fat has. Once associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes, fat has now made a comeback and is added to dishes for its flavour and contribution to nutrition and beautiful skin.

You can find fat in most animal foods like meat, dairy, eggs and fish. Fat also shows up in some plant foods. They are found in very high amounts in olives, seeds, nuts and avocados and in oils made from plants (like olive oil). Other plant foods, like beans and grains, also contain a tiny amount of fat.

Types of fat

The main kinds of fat found in food are saturated and unsaturated.

Saturated fats are usually in animal products, but they also can be found in plant foods, such as coconuts.  These are usually solid at room temperature (like coconut oil).

Unsaturated fat is usually liquid at room temperature and is found in fish, avocados and nuts.

Why we need fat

Fat is absolutely necessary for the body to function. Fat is a basic component of cell membranes in every cell throughout our bodies, making it essential for body growth and development. It is integral to body processes from blood clotting and nervous system functioning to reproduction and our immune system response.

Vitamins A, D, E, and K play key roles in maintaining healthy bones, teeth, hair, skin, and sight which are absorbed by fat.

The benefits of good quality dietary fats are now also being talked about in beauty blogs as skincare is in a resurgence (nobody needed makeup during the pandemic).

Fat, good health and flavour

Skin is made up of two layers.  The outer layer or epidermis (outer layer).  A sheet of fat cells covers the epidermis like a blanket, locking in water.  Essential fatty acids like Omega-3 and Omega-6 are a critical part of this lipid matrix.  As our body cannot synthesise these fatty acids they need to come from your diet.

Fats can also help regulate your cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats can help lower your LDL cholesterol or bad cholesterol.

However, it's not all about health.

We love to talk about the contribution of fat to the mouthfeel of food. This enhanced mouthfeel helps distribute whatever tastes the fat molecules are carrying with them to more of your tastebuds, where they can linger for longer—making the food’s flavour both more intense and lasting. We may have special taste buds for the taste of fat itself, similarly to how we do for sweetness and saltiness.

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Goldi acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, the traditional custodians of the land upon which we live and work. Our groves in Victoria in the Shepparton region sit on the land of the Yorta Yorta people, and in the Limestone Coast in South Australia, we operate on the land of the Ngarrindjeri and Booandik people. Goldi is committed to supporting these communities for our business operating on these lands.