Healthy fats are not only important, but they are essential for the body to properly function. This post is a continuation of the post I wrote a few weeks ago, 7 Tips for Balancing Your Meals.
The roles of fat
- cells and organelle membranes
- fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E & K-and the carotenoids)
- corticosteroid hormones
Why eat healthy fats
- more satiated after a meal
- help improve cholesterol
- decreases inflammation
- lower risk of cardiovascular disease
- weight management
What happens if we do not eat enough fats
- poor wound healing
- vitamin deficiency
- poor mental function
- hair loss
- skin problems
Types of fats
Monounsaturated fats has 1 double bond between the carbons and not all of the carbons have a hydrogen. This gives it a kinked chain and is liquid at room temperature. Sources of monounsaturated fats are olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, avocados and pumpkin seeds.
Monounsaturated fats help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL-bad cholesterol) without much affect to the high-density lipoprotein (HDL-good cholesterol).
LDL carries cholesterol to the bloodstream and forms deposits on artery walls. HDL carries cholesterol from blood stream, LDL, and artery walls to the liver to be removed.
Polyunsaturated fats has more than 1 double bond between the carbons and not all carbons have a hydrogen. It also has a kinked chain and is liquid at room temperature. Polyunsaturated fats are found in sunflower oil, walnuts and flax seeds. Essential fatty acids, fatty acids that the body cannot make, are polyunsaturated fats.
Omega 6 fatty acids, an essential fatty acid, are found in corn, safflower, soy and animals. Too much omega 6 can promote inflammation and increased cardiovascular risk.
Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish, algae and canola oil. Fatty fish, flax seeds and chia seeds also contain omega 3 fatty acids. This essential fatty acid decreases inflammation and protects from cardiovascular risk.
It is recommended for a 1 or 2:1 omega 6 to omega 3 ratio.
Saturated fats does not have double bonds and each carbon has 2 hydrogens. It has a straight chain and is solid at room temperature. Sources of saturated fats come from animals and tropical oils (coconut and palm).
Coconut and palm oil are medium chain fats, which are processed more quickly in the body. This means you are able to burn the energy and store less fat.
Trans fats occurs naturally and are man made. Only a small amount occur naturally and is usually found in ruminants. For example, milk fat contains approximately 4-8% of trans fat. The natural trans fats are not considered bad for your health. It is the chemically altered fats that are not good for you.
Trans fats are made by taking an unsaturated fat and artificially saturating it by a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation adds hydrogen to the unsaturated fat. It is still technically an unsaturated fat and the double bonds remain, but instead of having a cis (hydrogens on the same side) shape it now has a trans (hydrogens are across from each other) shape. The cis and trans refers to the position of the hydrogens on the double carbon bonds. All natural unsaturated fats have a cis shape. Once the unsaturated fat goes through the hydrogenation process, it is solid and more stable like a saturated fat.
If a product has partially hydrogenated oil listed on the ingredient list, it contains trans fats. Food manufactures can list 0 gm of trans fats on the food label even if the product contains up to 0.5 gm.
Notice this product has 0 gm trans fats on the food label, but list partially hydrogenated palm and soybean oils. This is an example of a product that has trans fats. If you add up the fats listed on the food label, you will get 11.5 gm. The food label states 12 gm total fat. There is 0.5 gm of trans fat in 1 tablespoon of this product.
- Consume healthy unsaturated fats daily. These include nuts, seeds, fish, avocados, coconut oil, olive oil and canola oil.
- Eat at least 1 good source of omega 3 fatty acids a day. These include fish, walnuts, canola oil, flax seeds and chia seeds.
- Add a daily fish oil supplement if you are unable to get enough omega 3 fatty acids through foods. Notify your doctor before beginning a supplement regimen.
- Consume no more than 10% of total calories from saturated fats. Healthy sources include coconut oil, grass/pasture fed meats, chickens and eggs.
- Eliminate man made trans fats from your diet. These foods can include package baked goods, chips, fried foods and margarine. Other package foods may contain trans fats, remember to look at the ingredient list before purchasing package foods.
Gropper, S.S., Smith, J.L. and Groff, J.L. Advanced Nutrition And Human Metabolism. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth. 2005.
McGee, H. On Food And Cooking. New York: Scribner. 2004.
Do you look at food labels and ingredient lists when grocery shopping?