We’re continuing our mini-series on the macro-nutrients beginning with the next in line: FAT. If you missed out on the last few posts that outlined carbohydrates click the links below to catch up:
- The Good & Bad on Carbohydrates: Which carbs you should be consuming, and those you should avoid or limit
- Why High Carbohydrate Diets aren’t Necessary for Endurance Events: The theory that carbo-loading is a must if doing endurance events, is now replaced with new research on the benefits of high fat diets.
Fat is a word no one wants to hear when talking about body and health. We are always looking to slim down in society, loss weight, build muscle and burn fat. Our culture began a low fat craze, as they thought that fats were bad and should be avoided in order to lose weight and live healthier. However, there were many things wrong with this approach and thinking.
Hence, the reason for my posts title “The Skinny on Fats….” In truth, healthy fats can actually promote weight loss, and play a significant role in our body, promoting a healthy being. Just as in the case with carbohydrates, there are bad fats and good fats.
I would agree that some fats should be avoided, but to swear off all fats isn’t healthy, nor wise. The low fat craze went to0 far. In order to make low fat foods appealing and taste good, additives were added. These were in the form of preservatives and in most cases sugar and hydrogenated fats in trace amounts. Packaged foods labeled low fat were a hit among consumers, but also a hit to their health.
Fats provide a source of energy, add texture, aroma and taste. They are needed to absorb the fat soluble vitamins, vitamin A, K, D & E. They help to insulate our body to keep us warm, and living in the Northern climates I appreciate this and wish I had more fat on my body in the winter to keep me warm 😉 Fats are needed to produce certain hormones and to protect organs.
Lets break down the fats into their major groups, get an idea of the type of fatty profiles for certain foods, and which to avoid.
Trans Fats: no double bonds; created by the process of hydrogenation which is turning healthy oils into solids to prevent them from going rancid (found in many packaged foods to lengthen shelf life); partially hydrogenated oils, hydrogenated oils; man made
- Found in pastries, cookies, cakes, packaged sweets & foods, fast food, potato chips
- Increase LDL Cholesterol and reduces HDL cholesterol
- Create and increase inflammation in the body, increasing risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes & other chronic conditions
- Contribute to insulin resistance (increasing risk of Diabetes)
- Interferes with EFA’s activity
- Alterations in adipose cell size
- Increase free radical formation; contributes to obesity
Saturated Fats: solid at room temperatures; no double bonds; mostly animal fats
- Found in meats and dairy (butter, cheese, cream)
- Can drive up cholesterol
- Limit amount in diet
*Coconut oil is considered a trans fat, but it’s important to note that coconut oil is considered healthy because of it’s MCT’s (Medium Chain Triglycerides)
Unsaturated Fats: These are your Omega-3,6, & 9’s; liquid at room temperature; double bonds; mostly plant oils
- Omega 3 sources: fish, shellfish, flaxseed, soybeans, eggs, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts & rapeseed oils (polyunsaturated fats – more than one carbon to carbon double bond); EPA & DHA
- Omega 6 sources: corn, safflower & sunflower oils (polyunsaturated fats – more than one carbon to carbon double bond)
- Omega 9 sources: Olive oil, avocado, peanuts, almonds & most nuts (monounsaturated fats – single carbon to carbon double bond)
Triglycerides: 3 fatty acids bound to glycerol
- store fat that your body can use as energy
- too many triglycerides isn’t a good thing
- main constituents of body fat
Omega 3 (alpha-linolenic acid) & 6’s (linoleic acid) are considered Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) because the body doesn’t have the enzymes necessary to create them, so one’s diet must supply them. EFA’s:
- Increase oxidation & metabolic rate
- facilitate transport of red blood cells across cell membranes & into our cells
- improve skin conditions
- encourage healthy nails & hair
- help with allergies, hyperactivity, arthritis, high blood pressure
- reduce tumor growth, inflammation, blood pressure & water retention (Omega-3’s)
- reduce risk of dementia
I like to say some fats heal and some fats kill, thus it’s important to read ingredient labels. Don’t buy it if it has Trans fat, make sure the label reads “Trans Fat= 0 grams.” Even then read the ingredient list, to make sure no partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils are found in the product. Even if the label reads 0 grams for Trans Fat, there can be trace amounts or up to 0.5 grams per serving of Trans fat.
Avoid interesterified fats as well. These are commonly found in boxed crackers or cookies, and are common when you see the words “zero trans fat” or “trans fat.” If the product says interesterified on the label or if the ingredient lists reads “fully hydrogenated oil,” “palm oil,” and/or “palm kernel oil” then the product may or may not contain interesterfied fat.
Avoid cottonseed oils & brominated oils, as they interfere with EFA’s, cause changes in heart tissue, fatty liver and kidney damage. Bromides are endocrine disruptors and can interfere with thyroid hormone. You can find Brominated vegetable oils in mountain dew or bakery products.
My top pick for fats and oils are:
- Olive oil: I don’t heat olive oil, as this can change the fatty acid profile. I use it in dressings or to make my vegan pesto (which is freezable), on salads or for skin care. Use extra-virgin cold pressed
- Coconut oil: use extra-virgin cold pressed & organic. Coconut oil reduces wrinkles, increases metabolism (helping with weight loss), reduces risk of heart disease, helps control blood sugar levels, antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal, and supports a healthy intestinal tract.
- Flaxseed, hemp seeds & chia seeds
We’ll continue the talk on Fats next week with some insight on why Fat is needed in our diets and how it can promote energy, health and is great for athletes.
*Harvard Health Publications, “The Truth about Fats: The Good, The Bad & The In-between” Pub. Feb. 2015, updated August 2015. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good
*Nutrition Classes in my Masters Program
*Disclaimer: This post is not intended to diagnose or cure any disease or disorder. This post is for informative purposes only. The information provided is from my many years of studying Nutrition and from the education I gained with my Masters in Nutrition. Please consult your physician or Nutritionist / Dietitian before beginning a new dietary program.
Until Next Time Be Whole and Be Fit