Helen’s Kitchen

What are some of the most nutritious foods you can eat?

If you’re thinking green leafy vegetables you’d be right, says naturopath, Helen Goodwin.


I mistakenly bought low-fat yoghurt the other day, which I never do, and was intrigued by the difference in texture and taste from my usual full-fat variety.

I found the yoghurt to have an almost gritty texture that left an unpleasant taste in my mouth, it was also watery and quite gelatinous. I missed the creamy satisfaction that comes from fat – the robust taste, and I certainly won’t be buying low-fat again. And why would I when it’s not the healthier option anyway. 

For the last forty years we’ve been told that low-fat foods are the healthiest choice for our shopping baskets. That saturated fats and cholesterol containing foods will cause our arteries to block and our hearts to fail. No wonder people fear full-fat foods.


Saturated fats and cholesterol found in dairy foods, fatty meats and coconut oil are in fact an essential part of a balanced diet. They provide a good source of sustained energy, as they slow the absorbtion of food, which is essential for maintaining balanced blood sugars and fending off hunger pains.

People consuming low-fat diets are often fatigued and hungry soon after a meal, which may explain why these diets are so hard to stick to. As fat provides foods with texture and taste, low-fat foods are often fortified with added sugar increasing the calorie content to rival other full-fat varieties.

A craving for fat will exist if we exclude it from our diet, sadly these cravings are usually fulfilled through damaged fats found in cakes, fried and processed products. Unfortunately, many of the healthy fats such as omega 3 & 6 are also removed from whole foods when the saturated fat is taken out, which just exacerbates the body’s deficiency.

Saturated fats are the building blocks for healthy, flexible blood vessel walls, which protect against the formation of cholesterol. They also assist in the creation of crucial hormones, including various sex hormones. Saturated fats also help carry vitamins A,D,E and K and vital minerals into the blood stream, helping us to assimilate calcium into the bone and protect the liver from toxins.

Mother’s milk is considered the perfect food for babies and it contains 50% fat, mostly saturated and cholesterol, which is essential for a babies growth and brain health. Low-fat baby formulas and children’s diets are prescribed as a healthier option, however, they have been linked to a failure to thrive. For adults, low-fat diets can result in depression, weight gain and difficulty concentrating.


The western world has been on a fat free quest since the 1970’s, yet heart disease and weight problems have only increased during that time. In fact a US study shows a rise in heart disease since the 1950’s, along with a sharp decline in animal fat and butter consumption and a 400% increase in margarine and refined oil consumption and 60% increase in sugar intake. It seems we’ve been pointing the finger at the wrong culprit for heart disease.

There is very little evidence to support the idea that consuming naturally occurring saturated fats and cholesterol will increase your chances of developing heart disease. On the contrary, there is far more evidence pointing towards saturated fats as a protection against cardiovascular disease with polyunsaturated oils and margarines being the true culprits.

In a British study using several thousand men, half reduced the saturated fat and cholesterol in their diets, stopped smoking and increased the amounts of unsaturated oils such as margarine and vegetable oils. After one year, those on the “good” diet had 100% more deaths than those on the “bad” diet, in spite of the fact that those men on the “bad” diet continued to smoke.

Several Mediterranean societies have low rates of heart disease even though 70% of their diets are high in saturated fat from meat and goats cheese. Jews living in Yemen, whose diets contained fats solely of animal origin displayed little heart disease and diabetes compared to Jews living in Israel, whose diets contained margarine and vegetable oils. All over the world the story is the same – even the French who’s diets are loaded with saturated fats from dairy and meat have a lower incidence of coronary heart disease than many other western countries.


Heart disease is still the number one killer in Australia, so why are these low-fat foods not protecting us? It seems we’ve been condemning the wrong foods and should be more concerned with our high usage of heat-treated oils, margarines and refined carbohydrate intake.

The reason polyunsaturated oils and margarines are so unhealthy is the way in which they are processed. These oils are extracted at high temperature, which alters their molecular structure making them rancid. Heat extracted oils such as soy, corn, safflower and canola have been linked to an increase in cancer, heart disease, weight gain and a whole host of other health issues. These damaging fats are found in baked goods, margarines, processed and fried foods. 

Oxidised rancid oils lead to free radical damage in the body and DNA damage. A diet high in damaged polyunsaturated oils are destined to increase cholesterol, as they cannot support vessel wall integrity in the same way as saturated fats, therefore the body produces cholesterol to strengthen and protect the vessel walls.

The healthiest oils are those that are cold pressed and come in dark glass, such as extra virgin olive oil. Saturated fats such as butter and ideally coconut oil are wonderful to cook with as they are less damaged at high temperature. They also have an antimicrobial action that protects against viruses and bacteria, which are associated with arterial plaque formation.

It may take some time before peoples perception of fat is changed and we once again realise that consuming food in it’s whole and natural state is better for our health. When choosing to eat whole fat foods, the best choices are those that have come from traditional or organic farming, as the correct ratio of fats, including omega 3’s are present.

I for one shall continue to confidently consume quality coconut oil, butter, full-fat whole milk, yoghurt, cheese and meats, feeling satisfied, less likely to snack between meals and ironically protecting my heart from disease. NH

Rate This

Average: 4.5 (13 votes)
The information presented on this website is not intended as specific medical advice and is not a substitute for professional medical treatment or diagnosis. Read our Medical Notice.