When we hear the word “fat” most of us immediately think weight gain, cellulite, cholesterol, or hot chips. Over the years, many of us have been indoctrinated into thinking that all fats are bad and should never be consumed. However, more and more research is showing that there are “good fats” and “bad fats”. In fact, your body actually needs some fats. Read on to learn the important truth about fats.
Why your body needs some Fats
Fats are essential to our bodies for building cell walls, lubricating your joints, stabilizing your hormones, maintaining body warmth, and providing elasticity for your blood vessels and skin. Fats are also needed by the body for the correct metabolism of carbohydrates and protein. The important point here is that you need to consume the essential fats. Which leads us to the next question.
What are “Good Fats” and “Bad Fats”?
There are 2 kinds of fats that you can consume, the good fats, and the bad fats. The good fats are the ones essential for good health, and the bad fats are those responsible for raising your harmful blood cholesterol.
The bad fats are known as Saturated fats and are the products of animals. These fats are easy to spot as they are the ones that are solids at room temperature. These fats are full of cholesterol and are more difficult for your body to digest. Butter, eggs, cheese, ice cream, and poultry skin are all examples of saturated fats.
Trans fats are the “evil” fats. Examples of these are margarine, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and animal shortenings (like lard). Trans fats will increase the bad cholesterol in your blood, reduce the good, and also increase your triglycerides. These fats should be avoided at all costs and can also be found in hot chips, and most fast foods.
The good fats are known as unsaturated fats and are plant products, such as seeds, nuts and vegetables. Unsaturated fats break down into two categories, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are liquids at room temperature (think cooking oils as an example). Sunflower oil is a good example of a polyunsaturated fat, and olive oil and canola oil are monounsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats, or Omega 9 fatty acids, are not essential to good health, but when used moderately are a much better alternative than animal fats. Extra virgin olive oil will always be a better alternative than butters and margarines.
The essential fatty acids are known as Omega 6 and Omega 3. These essential fatty acids are only to be found in the polyunsaturated fats.
Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in flax seed oil and fish (think tuna, salmon, sardines, herrings, pilchards, and mackerel).
Omega 9 fatty acids can be found in sesame oil, sunflower oil, walnut oil, safflower oil, pumpkin oil, and evening primrose oil.
Essential fatty acids are easily damaged by heat and light, and should be stored in cool, dark cupboards.
Essential fatty acids cannot be made by our bodies. Therefore, we need to consume some of these essential fatty acids to maintain our good health.
How much is a healthy amount?
To function correctly, your body requires the equivalent of one teaspoon of oil daily. Most of us consume far more than this.
A healthy amount to strive for is 25% of your total energy needs from fats. Most of us have at least 40% of our energy coming from fats.
Many health authorities are now recommending between 25-40 grams of fat daily as a healthy intake for the average adult.
While fats are essential, it is important to remember that they are extremely energy dense. One gram of fat contains 9 calories. By contrast, one gram of protein or carbohydrate contains 4 calories.
Most of us would benefit from reducing the bad fats in our diets and replacing them with the good fats. Remember though, a little fat goes a long way.