Understanding Fats in Our Foods

Fats are vital to good health and we should take in a variety on a daily basis for our body to function effectively. It’s an essential nutrient for utilizing the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K). Furthermore, our diet contains fat that assists with the development and growth of the brain as well as the skin, nerve function, and bone structure.  They also act as security and a cushion for the vital organs of the body. However, not all fats are identical or offer comparable health and wellness advantages. Food consisting of them have a differing combination of saturated, monounsaturated as well as polyunsaturated.

Whether the fats you consume are liquids such as oil, or solids such as margarine, they end up being broken down by your body and transformed into fatty acids and glycerol. The human body takes these and converts other lipids in the body. The remaining lipids are stored as a triglyceride.

Differentiating between saturated fats, trans fats or unsaturated fats?

Good-Fats-Vs-Bad-FatsFats  are classified as either saturated or unsaturated. This is determined by the number of hydrogen atoms connected to each carbon in their chemical chains. The more hydrogens connected to the chain, the more saturated the fat is. Should there be hydrogen atoms missing, the fatty acid is referred to as unsaturated.

Saturated Fats

Saturated fat is related to causing the liver to produce more cholesterol in addition to LDL cholesterol.

Food Sources: Meats, Butter, Whole milk, Poultry, Coconut oil, Palm oil

Unsaturated Fats

There are two categories of unsaturated fats; monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are regarded as being the healthier and more useful as opposed to saturated fats or trans fats. Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) are related to reduced LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, but concurrently raising the production of the “good” cholesterol, HDL cholesterol. Fats in this category normally are in liquid form and at room temperature.

Food Sources: Sunflower oil, Canola oil, Olive oil, Peanut oil, Hazelnuts, Macadamia nuts, Avocados

Polyunsaturated fatty acids

This type of fat activates lower blood/ serum cholesterol in addition to lower levels of LDL production. Interestingly, these fatty acids tend to reduce HDL production. Similar to monounsaturated fats, they can be found as liquids at room temperature.

Food Sources: Flaxseed oil, Corn oil, Sesame oil, Sunflower seeds and sunflower oil, Fatty fish, i.e. Salmon, Walnuts

Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s are specific polyunsaturated fatty acids found in meat sources. In non-meat sources, our bodies’ process alpha-linolenic acid into usable omega-3s. This fat is to be specifically healthy and beneficial the body due to the fact of their linkage with enhancing the immune process, rheumatoid arthritis, vision, brain function, and heart health. They’ve are known to reduce both triglyceride and total cholesterol levels. Most experts recommend the consumption of foods rich in omega-3s on a daily basis.

Food Sources: Seafood including High fat mackerel, albacore tuna, sardines, salmon, lake trout

Seed, Nut, Vegetable, and other Oil Sources: Flaxseed oil, Walnuts, Pumpkin seeds, Peanuts Soybean oil, Canola oil, kale, spinach, brussel sprouts, watercress and parsley

Vegetable oils offering Omega-6 fatty acids

Omega 6 rich foods also fall into the category of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Omega 6 fatty acids are identified with lowering heart disease risk by reducing LDL cholesterol levels. Likewise, they’ve been known to also reduce HDL levels.

Food Sources: Most vegetable oils, Sunflower seeds, Pine Nuts, Trans Fats

Trans Fats

Trans-fats are those we must avoid. Manufacturers use trans-fats to prolong the shelf life of foods such as breads, cookies, crackers, chips and other processed foods. Trans fats include hydrogen in their chemical makeup. Hydrogen causes the fat in the food to be firmer and more saturated, this causes a postponing of the rancidity and prolongs freshness. The adverse effect is that the hydrogens cause the food to become more saturated and hydrogenated resulting in trans fats. This additive is cheap – which is why manufacturers use it. But it is also very unhealthy.

Avoid trans fats! If we all stop buying food laden with trans fats, manufacturers will have to rethink and will have no choice but to start producing healthier foods for our families. Read labels on packaged foods to ensure they are free of transfats. Stay healthy.