If you’ve done a lot of reading only low carb diets, you know that fats aren’t the enemy. Indeed, it’s quite the opposite! Your body needs a regular intake of healthy fats.
What are Healthy Fats?
Healthy fats provide energy for your body. They protect your organs, support cell growth, and keep cholesterol and blood pressure under control.
What About Animal Fats?
Previously, animal fats got a bad rap because they are high in saturated fats. Saturated fats do not cause heart disease. And so animal fats are being embraced once again.
Here are some interesting animal fat facts:
- All whole plant and animal foods contain a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fats. Meaning neither is ALL saturated or ALL unsaturated
- Some plant foods are higher in saturated fat than animal foods, such as coconuts. Coconut oil is 90% saturated fat. That’s more than double the amount in beef.
- The main type of fat found in pork is a monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) called oleic acid. The same fat is found in olive oil.
How Did Fat Earn Such a Bad Reputation?
In the last few decades, the unnecessary demonising of fat and cholesterol has given rise to a much more concerning problem – obesity and diabetes.
Food manufacturers remove fat from processed foods. They replace it with ‘light’, ‘fat-free’ or ‘diet’ foods. For the most part, these products contain sugar. Sugar is added to enhance the flavour of foods that become bland when their fat is removed.
As a rule, healthy fat should be your primary energy source, not carbohydrates.
What are the Different Types of Fats?
Unsaturated fats are easy to spot – they’re liquid at room temperature. Their chemical structure contains one or more double bonds. They can be categorised in two ways;
- monounsaturated fats – they contain only one double bond.
- polyunsaturated fats – they contain only two or more double bonds (hence, poly).
The single bond on monounsaturated fats makes them less resistant to oxidation than saturated fats. They are also very high in antioxidants and polyphenols. They help protect the body against oxidative damage.
Sources of Monounsaturated fats include: Olive oil, avocados and avocado oil, most nuts
Polyunsaturated fats are more prone to oxidation due to their double bonds. Therefore, do not heat polyunsaturated fats.
Examples are flax oil, corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil. See below in the trans fat section for more information.
Sources of Polyunsaturated fats include: Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), animal fat, eggs, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. They have no double bonds.
These fats are made of carbons and are surrounded by hydrogen atoms. This ‘saturation’ gives these fats a higher stability against oxidation. Therefore, they are most suitable for cooking at high temperatures.
These days, we are still told to reduce our intake of saturated fats, to protect the heart. This advice is based on inadequate research and has since been debunked.
We now know saturated fats do NOT cause heart disease.
Sources of Saturated fats include: animal meat, butter or ghee, cream, coconut oil, cheese, animal fat.
Problems related to fat are related to excess fat — de novo lipogenesis — from excess carbohydrates.Dr. John Beaney, The Nutrition Geek
This results in a toxic reaction in the liver and eventually in the adipocytes themselves.
Trans fat is the worst kind of dietary fat.
It is a byproduct of hydrogenation. This process turns healthy oils into solids, to prevent them from spoiling. (Remember – the ones that were liquid at room temperature.)
Trans fats have no health benefits, in fact, they are extremely harmful to you.
Trans fats cause inflammation in the body. Many health problems are linked to inflammation. Including, but not limited to, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Even small amounts of trans fats can be bad for your health.
Trans fats are used commercially for deep-fried foods. This video explains how canola oil is made. Once you see it, you’ll never want to touch trans fat again.
Here are some foods to look out for that contain trans fats:
- Fried foods (French fries, doughnuts, anything deep-fried, fast foods)
- Margarine (stick and tub)
- Vegetable/Seed Oils (Canola, Soybean, Sunflower, Corn, Palm, Safflower, Rapeseed, Peanut Oil)
- Vegetable shortening
Seek out natural fats like butter, olive oil, and coconut oil. And avoid the use of highly processed vegetable oils and seed oils.