Know your fats

Fat has been given a bad reputation, but like protein and carbohydrates, fat is an essential nutrient that must be part of your diet. Fats are essential for supporting immune function, maintaining healthy skin and hair, and absorbing fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K); fats are also essential for optimal brain functions and help protect your organs from damage, among other crucial functions. Different types of fat influence health in different ways, particularly blood and heart health.

This article will discover the different types of fats and the difference between good and bad fats.

So let’s get started!

Types of fats

Saturated fats:

Most saturated fats come from animal sources, including meat, dairy products, and plant foods, such as palm and coconut oil. Most are solid at room temperature.

Unsaturated fats:

They are liquid at room temperature and primarily found in oils from plants and fish. There are two types of unsaturated fats; monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

Trans fats:

Trans fatty acids, more commonly called trans fats, are made by heating liquid vegetable oils in hydrogen gas. This process converts the oil into a solid and makes fats less likely to spoil, so foods appear to remain fresh longer; that is why the food manufacturers love them.

The healthy or “good” fats

Monosaturated fats

This type of fat helps protect your heart by maintaining good HDL cholesterol levels while reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol levels in your blood. This type of fat helps protect your heart by maintaining “good” HDL cholesterol levels while reducing levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in your blood.

Monounsaturated fats are found in:

Olive

Avocados

Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)

Seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds

Polyunsaturated fats

There are two primary polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 and omega- 6. They play a structural and regulatory role in the body; they help form cell membranes, regulate gene expression and cell function and lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol. Together they provide many important health benefits throughout our lifetime. Your body cannot make them, so it’s crucial to include them in your diet.

The ideal omega-3 to omega-6 fats ratio ranges from 1-to-1 to 1-to-5. Sadly the typical Western diet tends to be between 1 to 20 and 1-to-50.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for the brain and nervous system’s health. Omega-3 fatty acids are some of the most critical, influential molecules on your brain’s integrity and ability to perform. They support cognition, including memory and may prevent neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, including depression and anxiety. They are anti-inflammatory, and those found in oily fish can help maintain a healthy heart and reduce the risk of heart disease when eaten as part of a healthy diet.

Omega-3 fats are found in:

Salmon

Mackerel

Herring

Sardines

Anchovies and bass

Shellfish like oysters and mussels

(Some vegetable options) algae such as seaweed, flax and walnuts.

Evidence suggests that vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids may not have the same benefits for reducing heart disease risk as those in oily fish. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24261532/

Omega-6 fatty acids

They stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, maintain the reproductive system, and help function all cells. They have some pro-inflammatory properties, but that is not necessarily bad because inflammation is essential for body functions like immunity. A lack of omega-6 can lead to cell malfunction. Chronic inflammation is not so good and can lead to many diseases.

Omega-6 fats are found in:

Poultry

Eggs

Cereal grains

Pumpkin seeds

Most nuts

Vegetable oils

It is present in large amounts in industrially processed and refined oils, like soybean, cottonseed, corn, safflower, and sunflower.

The” bad” fats

Trans fats

Some naturally occurring trans fats can be found in meat and dairy products. However, it is artificial trans fats that are considered dangerous and unhealthy because these completely unnatural human-made fats cause dysfunction and chaos in your body on a cellular level.

Artificial trans fats have been shown to increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity, and other inflammatory conditions—even at relatively low doses. Trans fats even interfere with your body’s use of beneficial omega-3 fats and have been linked to increased asthma. That is why butter is better than margarine, for more go to the link: http://solsnutritionstories.com/five-myths-about-nutri

Trans fats can be found in:

Commercially-baked pastries (cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes)

Margarine and fried foods

Packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips)

Anything containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, even if it claims to be trans-fat-free.

To truly avoid trans fats, you need to read the label and look for more than just 0 grams of trans fat.

Vegetable oils

None of these oils come from vegetables or beans and seeds. Perhaps the term “vegetable” is used to make us believe they are healthy for us, but they are NOT. Seeds oils are unnatural; even if you have a million pumpkin seeds, no oil will come from them. So how do you make “vegetable oils”? Using chemicals and heat to create a completely unnatural product is everywhere, from your oat milk to your pet’s food. When the seeds or beans are finally in the oil form, they don’t contain trans-fats, but they are very unstable and can quickly oxidase, creating inflammation, oxidative stress and more free radicals in the body. Cancer and atherosclerosis, two significant causes of death, are salient free radical diseases.

Omega-6 fatty acids

Omega-6 in excess has been shown to cause vitamin E depletion, gut dysbiosis and inflammation and contribute to weight gain, liver disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, and premature ageing. But in moderation, they are beneficial. However, because vegetable oils are everywhere, you may be getting significant amounts of omega-6 without not knowing. Restaurants usually use vegetable oils and vegan or vegetarian cuisine, especially in Asia. So any miso or coconut milk soup you get with your yummy sushi may have more than two spoons of vegetable oil.

Saturated fats

Saturated fats are unhealthy, but excess consumption can negatively impact heart health, so they are best consumed in moderation.

Saturated fats are found:

Red meat (beef, lamb, pork)

Chicken skin

Whole-fat dairy products (milk, cream, cheese)

Butter

Fats and cooking

When you are frying, grilling or barbecuing, the cooking temperature will be very high, so you must choose the right oils that are stable at high temperatures and have a high smoke point. The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil starts to smoke, which is different for all oils. When you heat an oil past its smoke point, it not only harms the flavour, but many of the nutrients in the oil degrade—and the oil will release harmful compounds called free radicals. In addition, heating oils past their smoking point has been linked to the formation of carcinogens.

For high-heat cooking

Tallow, lard, ghee, extra-light (not extra-virgin) olive oil, avocado oil

Palm oil or coconut oil, or macadamia oil.

For lower-heat cooking or non-cooking uses

Butter, extra-virgin olive oil and extra-virgin coconut oil.

Resources:

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_point

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fat/art-20045550

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/different-fats-nutrition

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24261532/

https://chriskresser.com/healthy-fats-what-you-need-to-know/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/