Importance of dietary fat | Part 1

Types of fat

Fats- There are so many myths regarding this macronutrient that it can also outnumber carbohydrate misconceptions. Let's get started by addressing the most frequently asked question…

Does Fat Make You… Fat?

The logical answer to this question is simple: you will not gain weight if you do not consume large quantities of calories and fats on a regular basis. That is to say if you eat more calories than you burn, and the calories you burn come from fats, fats will make you fat. But it's important to remember that being overweight is caused by an excess of calories, not by a lack of exercise.

Following this line of reasoning, we may conclude that it makes no difference which macronutrient causes the surplus: if you eat too much protein, carbs, or fat, you will gain weight.

Remember the energy balance rule: you can gain weight if you eat more calories than your body needs to maintain its weight. Conversely, if you eat fewer calories than it needs, you will lose weight.

The 4 Types Of Fat

Now, not all fats are made the same, meaning that consuming certain types of fat can be bad for the body. When it comes to fats from food, there are a couple of types we differentiate. Those are namely: Trans fats, saturated fats, monounsaturated fats & polyunsaturated fats.

Let’s go over each one separately! 

  • Trans fats

Fats are inherently unstable compounds, and when exposed to a variety of environmental factors (light, moisture, heat), they spoil and lose their properties quickly. Of course, industries that use a lot of fat during production have devised a method to address this issue. That method for refining fats is also known as "hydrogenation." Hydrogen atoms are applied to the molecular structure of liquid fats using this method until they enter a solid or semi-solid state.

Foods made with hydrogenated fats have a longer shelf life as a result of this process. Nonetheless! Trans fats are fatty acids with a chemically modified structure found in hydrogenated fats. When it comes to food, trans fats are one of the most harmful substances you can eat. Trans fat consumption raises the risk of heart disease, miscarriage, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and certain cancers significantly.

Trans fats are, without a doubt, one of the worst nutrients we have in modern-day food products. However, given the abundance of such foods nowadays, it really is hard to get trans-fat consumption down to 0.

Nevertheless, all you have to do is avoid these foods: Margarine, some cookies, waffles, croissants, donuts, cakes, and other dough items, as well as most fast foods (wings, fries, and chips) If you see any of these, you may be certain that the product contains trans fats. 

  • Saturated fats

At room temperature, saturated fats are typically solid or semi-solid. Long, medium and short-chained triglycerides are the three forms of saturated fats that can be distinguished. Animal products, such as dairy products and beef, pork, and veal meat, include the first type (long-chained triglycerides). Saturated fats are contained in smaller amounts in other foods, such as chicken.

Palm, cocoa, and coconut oil all contain medium-chained triglycerides. Now, for the longest time, saturated fats have been thought to be bad because they are thought to raise cholesterol levels.

However, a major study involving nearly half a million people was published in 2010 in the American Journal of clinical nutrition. According to the findings, there is insufficient evidence to support the argument that saturated fats are the leading cause of cardiovascular disease and strokes. And though that is true, your best bet is to not go overboard with any type of fat, including this one.

We recommend that you consume no more than 5-10% of your daily calories from saturated fats.

  • Monounsaturated fats

Avocados, nuts, and certain plant oils, such as olive oil, are rich in monounsaturated fats. Since this form of fat is one of the cleanest and least processed, it is a good idea to put it at the core of your fat intake. Some studies suggest that monounsaturated fats can be useful for the cardiovascular system, improving its function and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

  • Polyunsaturated fats

Last but not least, we have polyunsaturated fats, that are just as essential as monounsaturated fats. In reality, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are the only ESSENTIAL types of fats, and you've probably heard of them. Essential means that the body cannot produce them on its own and that we must obtain them by diet or supplementation. This is not true of the other three categories of fats, including monounsaturated fats.

Now, though omega-6 fatty acids are essential, they are found in abundance in our modern-day nutrition. Plant oils, such as sunflower oil, corn oil, soy, and hemp oil, as well as nuts and seeds, contain a significant amount of short-chained omega-6 fatty acids.

Oppositely, we have arachidonic acid (AA), which is a long-chained form of omega-6 fatty acids. This is involved in the structure of cell membranes and is used by the body to fight infection and regulate inflammation. AA can be found in livers, eggs, yolks and seafood products. Now, unlike omega-6 fatty acids, omega-3 cannot be found all that much in our modern-day nutrition and is actually in a deficit for most people. The bad thing about this deficit is that omega-3 fatty acids are actually a preventative nutrient.

We can call them that because these fatty acids regulate inflammation and immune processes, along with many other processes in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in some animal products, such as fatty fish and crustaceans, but also in linseed oil, chia and hemp seeds and nuts.

Dietary fat is one of the most essential nutrients for the body next to protein and as such, it needs to be carefully selected. The selection of fat-containing products is important, mainly because many foods contain highly-processed fats, which may not be the best for the body. For this reason, the first step is to learn how to differentiate between the 4 different types of fat.

In the second part of this article series, we are going to give you more insight on the functions of dietary fat, as well as the best sources for you to derive these fats from!

See you in part 2.


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