FAT…friend of foe?

This is going to be a long one… get comfy!

A lot of people still fear fat based on the premise that fat makes you fat, although this has become the general consensus amongst people they could not be more wrong! Not only do healthy fats not make you fat, they are crucial to optimum health.

There are quite a few different fats out there and in order to understand whether it is a healing or hurting fat we need to ask questions.

What kind of fat is it? How has it been treated? Has it been exposed to light/heat/oxygen/hydrogen/water/acid/base/ or metals like copper and iron? How old is it? What balance of fats do we get (omega-6:omega-3)? Etc.,

The wrong types of fats, wrong amounts and wrong balances are what leads to diseases, however, the right types, right amounts and balances: promote energy, proper hydration, insulation and padding for organs, healthy skin and hair, optimal brain function, help absorb fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K), decrease inflammation, help metabolize fats, proper hormone balance, balance blood sugar, balance blood pressure  etc.,

Sounds pretty great right?

So what’s the difference? Well fats are made up of CHO atoms in chains of differing lengths containing both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. All this means is some chains contain bonds (making them more fluid) and some don’t contain any (solid)

Saturated fatty acids (SFAs) contain no double bonds and are the most stable of the FAs (read: are solid at room temp and are the best for cooking/baking), this is important because they are not as susceptible to degradation from heat, light and oxygen (fats 3 enemies!-they lead to fat degradation). SFAs are very important-they make up ½ of cell membrane structure, are readily burned as fuel (raise metabolic rate), help maintain blood sugar levels, enhance immune system, and aid in the body’s synthesis of the essential fatty acids (EFAs), etc. A few examples are butter, coconut oil, man-made fats (hydrogenated fats, trans fats), and animal fats. Although SFAs have been given the worst wrap they can actually be a great healthy source of fat if chosen correctly- coconut oil VS man made hydrogenated fat.

What makes hydrogenated oils so ‘bad’ is that their fatty acid chains have been chemically forced to change from a liquid to a solid fat, anytime something is chemically altered it leaves it unrecognizable/usable to the body. Instead of assisting in important bodily functions, these chemically altered SFAs have a tendency to get stuck in our bodies (because our bodies aren’t can’t use them) which trigger a decrease in HDL (good) cholesterol and an increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol which leads to clogged arteries and high blood pressure. Consuming hydrogenated trans fats is what causes cardio vascular diseases, not consuming a moderate amount of coconut oil or butter (from happy healthy organic cows of course!). My advice is STAY AWAY FROM TRANS FATS OR ANY HYDROGENATED FATS! Unless your goal is to increase inflammation, decrease your immunity, become fat, get a cardio vascular disease…

Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) contain 1 double bond resulting in more fluidity (read: generally liquid at room temperature, solid in fridge- less stable, more susceptible to heat, light and oxygen damage). They are found in numerous oils such as olive oil, flax seed oil, sesame oil etc., By found I just mean these oils don’t solely comprise of MUFA, they also contain a mix of polyunsaturated and saturated fats. Because of MUFAs fluidity they help keep our arteries flexible, help lubricate skin, improve brain function, positively affect cholesterol levels and help maintain our cardiovascular health-all in all that sounds pretty good! these are a good choice of fats but be careful when cooking with them, keep the heat low!

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) contain more than 1 double bond and are even more fluid than MUFAs (read: liquid at room temperature and in fridge, most unstable and susceptible to damage). PUFAs are very sensitive to heat, oxygen and light- they tend to go rancid easily and will turn into free radicals in your body causing damage when they do so (buy in dark, glass bottles). PUFAs can also be known as essential fatty acids (EFAs). Essential meaning our bodies can’t produce them; we must obtain them from foods—omega-3 and omega-6. Both are very important in bodily functions but what is more important is the balance between the two. If omega-6 is more dominantly ingested it produces inflammation, suppresses immune system, leads to high blood pressure, increased allergy response… not so fun!

Omega-6, also known as linoleic acid, from grains and vegetable and nut oils are more commonly ingested in the standard American diet (SAD).

Omega-3, also known as alpha linolenic acid, from flaxseed, chia seeds, walnut oil, EPA and DHA (fish liver oils) are more often passed over. Omega-3’s are vitally important because they naturally thin the blood, reduce inflammation, support brain function, help with behavioral changes, lubricate the skin, support bodily hydration… sounds amazing right! Why have we been skipping over these helpers? and what are the proper ratio’s?

In terms of proper 6-3 ratio, it is standard that people consume about 10-30 parts omega-6 to 1 part omega-3 when ideally we should be getting 1-2:1! We are very far off!

So how do we incorporate more omega-3’s?

Meat eaters should be choosing grass-fed (high in omega-3) meats over grain-fed (high in omega-6) meat. We should be choosing flax seed oil or walnut oil or fish oils to prepare food with (NO HEAT ADDED, always buy in dark glass bottles). We should be eating more steamed or baked fish (high heat or frying damages oils– free radical damage!). Try adding chia seeds/oil, flax seed/oil to your smoothies, try making salad dressings with flax or chia oil, sprinkle flax or chia seeds on your salads, breakfast porridge etc.,

These are just a few examples, basically all I’m trying to say is check in with your diet, do you ingest healthy immune supporting fats or are your predominantly ingesting degraded, inflammation producing, artery clogging fats?

Moral of the story: be very selective about your fats/oils, be very careful with how they are prepared-heat, light and oxygen exposure can degrade them causing them to become free radicals in our bodies (danger),NO TRANS FATS!, more omega-3’s 🙂

lemon, rosemary baked wild salmon 🙂



5 thoughts on “FAT…friend of foe?

  1. Emily October 17, 2012 at 12:16 pm Reply

    I love this post! It’s so detailed. I stumbled upon your blog and felt compelled to comment. I’m on my way to becoming an RD too (in my internship now) and love connecting with others along the same path. I also skimmed through some recent posts of yours and you have some to-die-for recipes that I am definitely coming back to check out! Can’t wait to follow 🙂

  2. Random eats | Simone's edible adventures October 18, 2012 at 1:05 pm Reply

    […] ← FAT…friend of foe? […]

  3. […] in our body’s detoxification processes, as well as in its ability to reduce oxygen based damage (such as the free radical damage discussed previously). When we are exposed to potentially toxic substances, they must be attached to sulfur in order to […]

  4. […] coconut oil is a fat, mostly saturated fat, but, as stated before, it is composed of mostly medium chain fatty acids, which are very readily absorbed and used for […]

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