Since around the 1960’s, when a campaign was released linking fat to weight gain, and chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancers, low-fat diets became BIG business. So what happens when a product has the majority of its fat taken out? It tastes terrible. Enter sugar, flavour enhancer. It’s no surprise that one of the largest and most successful marketing plans rolled out to date was to discriminate against fats with “low-fat” diets promoted for health. Even now alot of consumers choose low fat options unaware they contain more sugar, and empty calories and less vitamins and minerals. All this to avoid FATS in their diets. But is fat really the villain it has been made out to be?
Nutrition nourishment is releasing its THREE part series blog on the macronutrient known as fats, or lipids in collective term. Fats have received a lot of bad publicity, and its true that eating large amounts of fried foods and other ‘fatty’ foods can lead to weight gain and cause health problems. However, fat should be an essential part of the diet as its role is to maintain a variety of biological functions and support good health. This blog will explain the basics of dietary fats, and introduce you to the common types of fats found in the common diet.
What is Fat?
Fats have received a lot of bad publicity, and its true that eating large amounts of fried foods and other ‘fatty’ foods can lead to weight gain and cause health problems. However, fats are essential for a number of biological reasons. Dietary fats are naturally occurring molecules that are an essential part of our diet. They belong to a larger group of compounds known as lipids that also include waxes, sterols (e.g. cholesterol) and triglycerides. The different types of lipids have unique structures and correspondingly diverse roles in the human body.
Common Types of fats found in foods.
Saturated fats have no double bonds between Carbons and are saturated with hydrogens molecules, typically causing this type of fat to be solid at room temperature. They mostly come naturally occurring in animal products such as meat, poultry, butter and cheese, along with coconut and palm oils too. They tend to raise the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol within the blood and lower ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. Eating more than 10% of your dietary fats in saturated fats can lead to risk of heart disease, stroke and some types of cancers.
Unsaturated fats contain double bonds between Carbons, usually liquid at room temperature and come in two main groups: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are considered a ‘good’ fat by many nutritional experts due to research showing they inhibit disease such as diabetes, depression, dementia, autoimmune disease and heart disease.
Monounsaturated fats contain only one double bond and have been shown to improve cholesterol levels in the blood and lower the risk of heart disease. They form the foundation of diets such as the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, both which promote good health and longevity. Rich sources include olive oil, avocados, almonds, cashews, peanuts and some seeds.
Polyunsaturated fats contain two or more double bandstand are considered an essential fatty acids, as the body cannot create these so they must be a part of a healthy diet. PUFA’s come mainly from fish and plant oils, chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts and some vegetables. There are two groups of polyunsaturated fatty acids known as Omega 3, and Omega 6. These fatty acids are determined by the location of the first double bond on the chain from the left.
Omega 3 fatty acids promote anti-inflammatory properties within the body and are found in oily, fatty fish including salmon, sardines, trout, and herring, along with linseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, canola oil and mega 3 enriched eggs.
Omega 6 fatty acids are said to promote inflammation in the body when consumed in large amounts, which can increased the risk of cancers, heart disease autoimmune disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis. Currently opinions vary on the correct ratio of Omega 3 fatty acids to Omega 6 fatty acids, with most of the western population consuming enough Omega 6, but low amounts of Omega 3.
And then there is Trans fat… This type of fat is rarely found naturally occurring, and is made from vegetable oils that are hydrogenated, which is a process used in commercial food manufacturing to lengthen the shelf life of foods. This results in the polyunsaturated vegetable oil, acting like saturated fat in the body during digestion. Experts agree there is no safe level of trans fat, as it raises ‘bad’ HDL cholesterol and lowers ‘good’ LDL cholesterol. Studies link trans fat to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, gallstones, and inflammation. They are found in processed foods such as commercial baked goods, fried foods and cheap brand of margarine. Always avoid foods that contain ‘partially hydrogenated’ or ‘hydrogenated’ vegetable oils in the ingredients list. The good news is that many food manufacturers and restaurants have cut back on the use of trans fat in their foods.
Good Fats, Equal Better Health
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids play a crucial role in maintaining good health. They offer an extraordinary range of benefits for the cardiovascular system as well as helping to fight an impressive number of diseases. Below is a brief outline of benefits established from research around the world.
Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats may help to safeguard against type 2 diabetes, protect against forms of cancers, decrease levels of total cholesterol in the blood, and reduce levels of artery-clogging triglycerides, which is a blood fat linked to heart attacks and strokes.
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that cut the risk of sudden cardiac death by half, provide protection against strokes, reduce depression, protect against dementia, steady heart rhythm, reduce the risk of vision loss and macular degeneration, may aid in children with ADHD and autism to help settle and set forces, along with preventing blood blotting, and high blood pressure.
We hope you enjoyed the FIRST PART of the Fats- Macronutrients Series, and have developed a greater understanding of the types of fats found in the diet, and improved your knowledge on some of the roles dietary fats play in the body. The information you have obtained from this blog have laid the foundation to increase your knowledge in the next blog in PART TWO of the fats-macronutrients series, nutrition nourishment will go into extensive detail on the different functions that dietary fats have in the body and how the information can assist you to good health.