Everything You Need to Know About Fat
Our knowledge of nutrition has changed a lot in the past decade.
Remember the old days when doctors were advising everyone to stop eating eggs because of the fat in them – and the cholesterol? Now we know that eggs are a good source of protein and fat.
Still, some doctors haven’t figured it out. More likely, they haven’t kept up with the research.
Well, it’s easy to get lost in the maze of nutrition information. That’s why learning all about the latest info on fats is important.
There’s a Bit of Chemistry to Know about Fats
In chemistry, what makes a fat is its –COOH group at the end of the molecule. A fat can have as few as 2 carbons or more than 20 carbons. Fats are called short chain fatty acids, medium chain fatty acids, or long chain fatty acids.
Short chain fats are less than 6 carbons in length and found in food and made in the body when a longer fat is broken apart by enzymes. Medium chain fats are between 6 and 12 carbons long and they are the fats found in coconut oil. In fact, there was a baby formula scandal several years ago where baby formulas were missing these fats and the babies did not do too well until these fats were added back into their diet.
Long chain fats are those that are required for us to survive, such as omega 3 fats. They are 13 carbons in length or longer. But this type of fat also includes the omega 6 and omega 9 fats. The omega signifies where the double bond is located. For example, omega 3 means the double bond is at the third carbon position.
The omega 6 fats sometimes get a bad rap because they can contribute to inflammation in the body.
Omega 3 fats stop the inflammation in the body. Omega 3 fats can be further broken down into ALA, EPA, and DHA.
In a nutshell, ALA is alpha linolenic acid, which can convert to DHA. EPA is from fish sources and linked with keeping the blood flowing freely in your body. DHA is the omega 3 fat that keeps you smart.
Get Up-to-Date with the Truth about Plant Omega 3
Some people have the mistaken concept that even omega 3 fats in flax-seed oil and algae are good for you. Omega 3 certainly is good for you but plant sources of omega 3 are very poorly absorbed. Their maximum absorption is 10 to 15%!
What this means is that you will never get enough omega 3 fats from plant sources of this fat. Stop trying! Eat the good high food sources of omega 3 – fish, and meat sources.
And forget about the idea that chickens can be fed omega 3 in their food and it makes a remarkable difference in the omega 3 content of the eggs. Whatever it is that the farmers are adding to the eggs to increase the levels is still fuzzy science, and you don’t want to get involved in another margarine myth.
- Myth: To avoid heart disease, we should use margarine instead of butter.
- Truth: Margarine eaters have twice the rate of heart disease as butter eaters. (Nutrition Week 3/22/91) (1)
What makes omega 3 so good for you is that it:
- Acts as a natural anti-coagulant
- Fights against inflammation
- Makes you smarter by boosting your brain function
- Lessens depression
- Increases concentration and can help those with attention deficit disorder
It’s the Ratio That Counts When It Comes to Fats
Our ancestors, the hunters and gatherers, had a ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 of 1:1. What this means is that for every gram of omega 6 you eat, there should be 1 gram of omega 3.
This same ratio is strived for on a Paleo Diet.
What we find now in the Western diet is a ratio of 10:1. Or 15:1. In some people, it’s 30:1.
Since cows were never meant to eat corn and grain, but grasses instead, the added omega 6 fats from the grains has made a difference in the omega 6 content of their meat.
What Goes Wrong When the Ratio is Out of Whack
Here’s a list of some bad things that happen from an unbalanced and elevated ratio of omega 6 fats to omega 3 fats:
- High Blood Pressure
- Low Immunity
- Metabolic syndrome
- Arthritis (rheumatoid)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Recently scientists reported that the difference in omega-3 between grass fed beef and commercial feedlot meat was not significant. The fact is that all the other foods you are eating probably matter a lot more than the amount of omega-3 you get in meats. After all, how much grain are you eating? How many nuts and seed oils are you eating? Corn oil has a ratio of 46:1 and soybean oil is 7:1. These matter more in the overall scheme of things and thus in your omega 6/3 ratio.
Some frightening statistics state that 9% of your calorie intake is from soybean oil. How much of your intake is from fish and seafood? Not that much probably!
Looking at this in another way, when scientists analyzed the whole body composition of omega 6 versus omega 3 of Americans, they came up with 75% omega 6! Crazy! Literally, no wonder why we are crazy sometimes! We’re all suffering from inflammation and don’t even realize it.
The good news is that when your ratio falls down to 4:1, your risk of dying from heart disease falls 70%.
The key to turning this around is to up the level of omega 3 fats in your diet. And if you’re afraid to eat fatty fish because it may contain high levels of mercury, take your omega 3 supplements and be done with it!
Saturated Vs Unsaturated Fats
Fats can also be looked at in terms of the chemical structure of their bonds. If a fat does not have any double bonds, it is saturated with hydrogen atoms, and this makes it very stable, non-reactive to light and cooking. This type of fat is called saturated. Saturated fats don’t get rancid.
They are used in the body to strengthen the cell wall so your cells can fight against bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Saturated fats also contain fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K. Saturated fats contain cholesterol, which your body uses for hormone production.
Saturated fat of any kind has suffered a very bad rap for decades. But think about this for a moment. If a fat doesn’t react to light, heat or much of anything else, how bad could it be for your body?
Where Fats Come From in the Body
Another way to look at the fats is to distinguish between monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and trans fat or interesterified fats. The term fatty acids merely mean subunits of fat found roaming in the bloodstream briefly until they combine with alcohol.
If you have one fatty acid combining with alcohol in the bloodstream (this is alcohol from metabolic functions, not from what you drink), it’s called a monoglyceride. If two fatty acids combine with alcohol in the bloodstream, the unit is called a diglyceride.
And if three fatty acids combine with alcohol in the bloodstream, it’s called a triglyceride. Most of the ones found in the body are triglycerides. If these fats are broken down for energy, they are then called free fatty acids.
So now, you know what the relationship of triglycerides and free fatty acids are to your blood tests.
The Relationship to Health
Always ask yourself whether a fat will break down to these types of fatty acids. Monounsaturated fatty acids are found in olive oil, nuts, and avocados. These fatty acids will lower blood cholesterol levels.
Trans fatty acids tries to mimic saturated fatty acids, but causes health problems with essential fat absorption, immune system dysfunction and inflammatory diseases. Trans fats also pack on the inches on your waist. Trans fats are the ones made by the food industry.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFA for short, don’t convert well to EPA or DHA in the body. The more of these fats you consume, the more you will directly contribute to reducing your levels of EPA and DHA by up to 50%. So frankly, they are not worth it. PUFAs will also create more free radicals and are associated with an increase in the rate of cancer, heart disease, and inflammatory diseases.
Interesterified fats are another evil created by the big bad food industry to get their share of the profits. These companies know that everyone is on the lookout for trans fats so what did they do? They created another type of hydrogenated fat and added stearic acid to it. Hydrogenated fats raise blood sugar and although all the data isn’t in on these interesterified fats, aren’t you sick and tired of becoming a guinea pig for these companies? Boycott these hydrogenated fats, period.
To help you out with which fats to eat, cook with, and which ones to avoid – click on the picture below. It can also be found in the Free Guides.
Unsaturated Fats are killing You, Not Saturated
What we know now is that saturated fat is actually quite good for the body.
By the way, do you know about plaque in the arteries? Well, scientists discovered that the plaque is not made of saturated fat like the American Heart Association and other so-called experts say. The plaque is made of oxidized unsaturated fat, period. Not a stitch of saturated fat around anywhere in the arteries.
An unsaturated fat has one or more double bonds. What happens with the double bonds is that they are subject to react to light, to heat, and to chemical reactions in the body. No wonder why they are the culprit in plaque and the worst unsaturated fats are those with multiple bonds.
Unsaturated fats are bad because they are the fats that oxidize – and it’s oxidized fats that are the worst type of fats for us. Oxidized fats are worse than unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are worse than saturated fats. Because oxidized fats react to light, heat and anything else, they harm the body. They create plenty of free radicals, which damage our tissues and cause us to age fast.
It’s similar to having two kids; one of them is a troublemaker and the other is a goodie-two-shoes. Who would you expect to have tormented the neighbor’s cat? It would be the one who tends to react and does react to every little thing. The troublemaker.
What Fats You Should Be Eating
So, what this means is you have to stop blaming saturated fats for your troubles. Start eating coconut oil, coconut, butter, and ghee. Don’t be afraid of chicken fat, fat in meat, duck fat, lamb fat, and even lard.
We’re all afraid of whole milk and products made from it, but the problem could be removing the fat! This could be one of the things that make milk unhealthy.
Palm oil is another saturated fat that is on your list of the good ones, as are the fats in meat and seafood and eggs.
Since a list is probably the most helpful, here you go with a list. You may want to post it on your refrigerator.
(You can heat these)
Butter and ghee
Lard and tallow
Chicken and duck fat
Full fat dairy
Eggs, meats, and seafood
(Don’t heat these)
Nut oils (pecan, walnut, macadamia)
Nuts and seeds
Bad Fats Start Out in the Laboratory
However, there are some saturated fats that truly are bad and that would be the ones made in the laboratory. Margarine is at the top of the list. Hydrogenated fats and oils, also called trans fats, would be another one.
When your body cells see these coming, it cries out to you for help. That’s because these fats are thought to plant themselves on the receptor sites where the essential fats are supposed to go. When the essential fats mosey on by, looking for their homes, an all-out civil war is started and the trans fats won’t move out. It’s as if the food manufacturers created their own little Homestead Act for these fats.
And again, it’s best to see these in a list so here goes:
Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated
Man made trans fats found in buttery
spreads like Earth Balance, Benecol, and
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
Rice bran oil
Rice bran oil
Are You Considering Seed Oils?
Then there’s something else to be considered – the seed oils.
These are oils pressed out of seeds and nuts, such as sesame oil, soy oil, walnut oil, flaxseed oil, safflower oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, and grape seed oil. Because of the high level of omega 6 fats in these oils – already mentioned earlier, they really aren’t recommended for building your diet.
Sure, you can eat them once in a while but if you’re looking for a liquid oil, use olive oil. Olive oil is an unsaturated oil but it’s also a monounsaturated oil, which is close enough to being a saturated oil. Its ratio of omega 6/omega 3 fat is 3:1.
Nuts and seeds have good nutrition in them, but leave their serving sizes close to about a handful and call it enough. That way you won’t get too many omega 6 fats.
You Must Eat to Win
If you’re not up on fats, than you’re in for trouble. Slowly, you end up with immune dysfunction, awfully dry skin, lessened brain functions since your brain is made up of mostly fat (Yes, you’re a fat head without even knowing it.), ADHD and a host of other health issues mentioned above. Lack of essential fats can make you susceptible to most degenerative diseases without even talking about obesity.
So whenever you see any hint of hydrogenated or trans fat listed on a food label, ask yourself this: Is the taste worth succumbing to infections, having no ability to control when you say stupid things, and scratching your skin till it’s raw when no moisturizer will help? Make a decision now!
So there you have it – what to know about fat. End of the story.
So what are some of your favorite healthy fat sources? Any cool cooking tips to share using some of the fats mentioned?