The truth about fat: part two
In Part One we talked about the good side of fats and this week I’m going to explain the differences between saturated, unsaturated and artificial fats and finish with 5 tips to improve your balance of fat intake.
Saturated fat is usually found solid at room temperature and comes from animal sources. It is found in meat, cream, lard, butter, cheese, pastry, cakes, and milk. As we know if your diet consisted of purely these items then there’s high risk of getting heart disease and the like.
Unsaturated fat mainly comes from vegetable products and is commonly found soft or in liquid form at room temperature. It is found in vegetable oils and olive oils, oily fish, soya and nuts and some soft margarine.
There are two main types of unsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
Both monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats have distinct health benefits. There is evidence that both types of fats reduce LDL cholesterol levels in the blood when included in a diet low in saturated and trans-fats. This helps lower risk of coronary artery disease and stroke. Monounsaturated fats have the added benefit of being high in Vitamin E and help to maintain and develop cells in the body. Omega-3 and Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids are also vital to brain development and the body’s growth.
Unlike saturated and unsaturated fats, Trans fats, or trans-fatty acids, are largely artificial fats.
A small amount of Trans fats occur naturally in meat and dairy products. However more often than not, Trans fats are created by a chemical process (hydrogenation). For example, liquid vegetable oil is packed with hydrogen atoms and converted into a solid fat. Trans fats are ideal for the food industry to work with because of its high melting point and its reusability. Trans fats raise the LDL cholesterol levels to those similar to saturated fat but they also reduce levels of good HDL cholesterol. Trans fats also increases the number of something called triglycerides in the blood, adding to our risk of cardiovascular disease.
Essential Fatty Acids
There are also certain fats that are essential to health and are often referred to as the essential fatty acids (EFAs). This is because they are a vital component of all cell structures. However EFAs cannot be manufactured by the body, therefore they can only be obtained from food. Omega 3 is an example of an EFA, which is commonly taken as a supplement proven to help with mood and concentration. It can be found naturally in tuna, flax seed and also salmon.
Hopefully breaking down fat into these various compartments, should make it easier to comprehend. It is plain to see how people could view fat with a prejudiced view. It was only until recently that cholesterol was discovered for the huge part that it plays with our everyday functioning and health, with the balance of LDLs and HDLs and our cellular health.
From an osteopathic point of view I feel it is important to not just treat the body mechanically but also to care for the body holistically by understanding what we eat through nutrition. Part of the holistic healing process is by continually educating ourselves.
With this basic understanding of fat perhaps we can now view it a little differently and dare I say fairly, and identify good and bad fats more wisely and with confidence in our daily lives. And yes I am sure you’ll still be looking to the labels as old habits die hard, but I am sure you have a more assured grasp in the wonderful world of fat and the benefits that go with it.
Fact – fat is a wonderful insulator which helps reduce the rate of thermal loss and keeps you and your internal organs warm, as well offering well rounded protection. Our body is extremely clever and adapting – we tend to store more fat around the colder times of the year like in winter to keep warm.
Thing of interest- A diet that’s much too low in fat, especially essential fatty acids (remember that EFAs are fats which your body can only get from food), might jeopardize your mental health. Both omega-3 and omega-6 play vital roles in mood and behavior as they are the precursor to many hormones and chemicals produced in the brain. Hence low essential fatty acid intake can lead to depressive symptoms the reason for this is because fatty acids are needed to help insulate nerve cells and if the nerve cells in the brain become less insulated due to the short supply of fatty acids then there will be slower communication between brain tissues (via neurological synapse). In some cases, people deficient in omega-3 may suffer from other conditions such as bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other varying conditions.
6 tips to improve your balance of fat intake
- Sprinkle 2 to 3 tsp ground flaxseeds, almonds, Brazil nuts on your cereal, porridge or yogurt a few times a week.
- Use extra virgin olive in salad dressing. You can also use 100% raw extra virgin unrefined coconut oil to spread on your toast or add to your smoothies or juices.
- Eat a few blocks of dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa (preferably with no hydrogenated oil in it)
- Eating fish at least twice a week such as Tuna, salmon or mackerel.
- Take Omega- 3 supplements (helps lower risk of heart attacks and strokes, reducing stiffness and joint tenderness )
- Occasionally add avocado to you main meals or salads which is a great source of monounsaturated fat