Today, we’re going back to basics and talk about fats. Specifically what is so called good fat, why is it good, how its different for bad fat and where to find the good fat.
Fats are a confusing minefield that we all struggle with. We read about good fats that are good for your heart or was it health and not heart? and bad fats that are definitely bad for your heart, which brings us to good cholesterol and bad cholesterol that has something to do with blood and heart attacks, and trans-fats and omega-3 fatty acids, etc.
The list of fats is long. We’re bombarded and surrounded by these terms on a daily basis and today, we’re going to focus on this minefield and hopefully clear it out.
It’s important to understand fats and rebuild our relationship with them – a lot of our health problems come from this ruined relationship. Fats are important and not a bad thing to be feared of, as long as they come from the right source.
Why we shouldn’t be afraid of fat
Fat has been demonized for quite some time, we even use it as an insult. However, fat is an essential part of our body. We cannot live without fat.
Let’s strip it down, and look at the very basics:
- what is fat in our body,
- which fats should we eat and which avoid and
- where to find good fats.
Fat is another form of energy in our body. It’s also a vitamin carrier – nearly 1/3 of vitamins are fat-soluble, which means they’re carried around our body by fat – vitamins A, D, E, K.
Fats provide cushioning for our organs, and its also part of the building block for hormones.
Around 60% of our brain is made of fat.
We definitely need fat but we became to fear it, simply because the fat balance in our diet isn’t right. We’re still eating to little of vegetables and fruits and too much of refined carbohydrates and refined and saturated fats. I know you’ve heard this before but that’s the rock solid truth and a problem that prematurely sends 11 million (that’s equivalent to the population of Georgia, USA) to their food-health issues related death.
The different types of fat
There are 3 types of fat:
- unsaturated and
Let’s start with the saturated fat. The Bad Fat, which is linked to a blood raised cholesterol. NHS says, you shouldn’t have more than 10% of your overall daily intake as saturated fat. The average Western diet person consumes roughly, double that if not more (20%).
You can find saturated fat mainly in animal products. Items like meat, dairy, sausages, bacon, eggs, etc. but also in coconut, which is why vegans and plant based people should be careful and use coconut oils and butter in moderation.
Saturated fat is solid at room temperature.
Then, we have unsaturated fat or Good Fat. They branch in mono-unsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. And I admit, this is where things get a chemical. But fear not, you don’t need to know about mono- and poly- fatty acids to know how to tell good fat from bad one.
First of all, the key is in the word “UNsaturated“.
Unsaturated fat is liquid at room temperature.
To summarize, you have saturated fats, which you don’t want much of because they are harder to break down. And then you have unsaturated fats, which are easy to break down.
This is where the good fats and bad fats term comes from.
- Good fats = unsaturated fats, easy to break down, found in plant foods.
- Bad fats = saturated fats, difficult to break down, found in animal produce and coconuts.
The last type of fat we should touch on is trans-fats. They’re also considered bad fat.
Trans-fats are any ultra-processed oils:
- refined, cooking vegetable oils,
- oils use for deep frying,
- shortenings and margarine,
- you find low levels of trans-fats in meat and dairy.
Basically, trans-fats are usually found in processed foods. The good news though, is that a lot of supermarkets try to aware their costumers of these fats and so its getting much easier to spot it on the ingredient label when shopping.
Where to find good fats
Good fats come from plant based sources.
- Mono-unsaturated fatty acids are found in avocado, nuts and seeds.
- Poly-unsaturated fatty acids are when we talk about the famous omega-3-fatty acids and these are important because our body cannot make enough of it and you need to get it from food.
You can find the poly-unsaturated fatty acids in oily fish, eggs, milk, some yogurts..but they’re broken down into different parts. In short, you have EPA and DHA.
DHA is the important part that helps the brain. DHA is really, really important part that can help you protect your brains against neuro-degenerative disorders.
The combined EPA and DHA help your heart. They help your heart stay healthy and function longer. There’re lots of research done on this, showing that omega-3 fatty acid help to decrease risks of diseases like Alzheimer’s, Dementia and heart attacks if the person already eats a balanced wholefood, mostly plant based diet. If a person eats a standard Western diet heavy in animal produce and low on fiber and nutrients, then the omega-3 cannot do its good work on its own (Source: NutritionFacts.org).
Not enough of people are getting their omega-3, so that’s one good fat that you definitely want to look at.
Let’s touch a bit on the cholesterol
I want to talk shortly about cholesterol to get a bigger picture of why we should eat good fat and avoid bad fat.
High cholesterol is a very big health problem and since medication for lowering cholesterol doesn’t work all that much, a lot of people turn to diet in order to get their cholesterol under control.
Cholesterol is not all that bad as long as it’s under control. In fact, cholesterol is a fat that is vital for our body. It’s made by the liver, its found in some foods as well and is carried around in our blood by protein, called lipoproteins. Fat protein.
You can remember it by liposuction, lipo means fat, suction we know.
These lipoproteins come in 2 different categories. The 2 categories is what you look at when you go check your cholesterol level at the GP. So its important to understand what your blood test results mean.
You have your:
- High Density Lipoproteins, HDL. They carry protein around and you want a lot of this HDL, the good cholesterol. And
- Low Density Lipoproteins, LDL, which you don’t want much of, the bad cholesterol.
The reason for this is the HDL carries things to the liver to be metabolized, which is good.
On the other hand, LDL carries it to the cells. If there’s too much of LDL in your blood it will start accumulate on your arteries walls, and this is when you potentially start to notice chest pain, heart problems, cardiovascular diseases, etc.
In general, since our body makes it’s own cholesterol, any type of cholesterol that we consume is a bad cholesterol that will increase our levels.
Bad fats or saturated fats, found in animal sources increase your LDL.
That’s the breakdown of your good fats. I hope its now clear that we should eat fats found in plants and avoid fats from animal produce.
Good fats, also called unsaturated fats are found in plant foods, such as seeds, nuts and avocado, oily fish and are easier to break down than fats found in animal produce – bad fats.
Good fats increase your HDL cholesterol and lower your LDL cholesterol, which shows in better health of brain, heart and overall well-being.
We need fat and we shouldn’t be afraid to eat is as long as it comes from the right source. Instead of snacking of chips and fries, have a hand full of nuts. This way, you’ll get good fats in combination with fiber and other goodness packed in it.
If you want a long-term health benefits that comes from a diet, increasing your wholefood intake and limiting animal products is the best option. Lots of people that did their own research on healthy eating switched to it and are enjoying their food. Sure, changing your diet takes some time and adjustments but it’s easier than you think.
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Till next time,