Fats. It’s a word that many people want to completely avoid when it comes to choosing the right foods. But the truth is; there are fats that are considered healthy, and need to be included in your diet in order to maintain healthy weight and nutrition.
Where do we find these “good fats?” Where do we find the “bad fats?” What are the differences between the two?
It becomes really hard to just classify any food or edible as good or bad. But there are a few characteristics that can help us distinguish a little better. There are three main types of fats; unsaturated, saturated, and trans fats. The saturated and trans fats are mostly what make up the “bad fats,” and here’s why:
Saturated fats come mostly from animal flesh and products, and from some plant products. They are made of fatty acid molecules with the hydrogen atoms filling all available carbons, so that they are no carbons free. Examples of these are lard, butter, full fat ice cream, cheese, meats, etc.
Depending on the various types of fats that fall within the area of “saturated,” different types have different lipid profiles. For example, beef fat has a lot of palmitic acid which research suggests could be implicated in weight gain and hindered weight control and insulin action. On the other hand, coconut has a higher lauric acid. While coconut oil is considered a saturated fat, its entire lipid profile is not as damaging as you might think. Studies have shown coconut oil to go through a different pathway in the body and actually be have benefits such as raising HDL and containing anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Trans fats are similar to saturated fats in that they also have carbon molecules that are full. But they are this way because of partial or full hydrogenation, or human’s intentional effort of filling the carbon molecules with hydrogen’s unnaturally. These fats are usually used in order to keep foods stored in boxes or bags intact for longer, otherwise they would be crumbs.
How about the good fats? The unsaturated fats mean that their carbon chains are not totally full (saturated) with hydrogen atoms and there are more double bonds. Most plant-based fats are this way, and are better for your health. These can be further broken down to monounsaturated (one double bond on the carbon chain) and polyunsaturated fats (more than one double bond on the carbon chain). Many types of food and oils such as olive oil have this type of fat.
Another type of important unsaturated fats are the Essential Fatty Acids, namely Omega-3’s, and Omega-6. These fats are essential because our bodies cannot make them; we must get them from our diet. Most experts agree that we have too much of the Omega-6’s in our diet in relation to the Omega-3’s and that we need more of the latter. While Omega-6’s are found in the ever abundant corn, soy and other vegetable oils, Omega 3’s may be beneficial to the brain, joints, heart and more, and can be found abundantly in the less consumed flax, walnut and salmon.
Look out for the differences in these fats, and choose fat containing foods that can help you maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.