The Facts about Fats

June 25, 2024

Fat makes up nearly 60% of our brain matter, and it’s one of the most important nutrients to boost brain performance. Plus, we need fat to absorb essential vitamins like A, D,E, and K. It’s good for our cells, protects our organs, and surprisingly even helps regulate our cholesterol. If we cut out fat entirely, it can have a detrimental impact on our body.

Let’s break down the different types of fats, what makes them different from each other, and how they can impact our overall health.

Note - dietary fat intake does not directly impact body fat. We can convert excess protein & particularly carbohydrates into fat when we eat any of these in abundance. The key is balance!

Breaking Down Dietary Fats: What You Need to Know for a Healthy Lifestyle

1. Saturated fat

Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature. They are found in things like steak, pork, poultry skin, dairy (like cream and butter), egg yolks, and tropical oils (like coconut and palm). Some studies suggest that having too much of these fats (particularly in processed meat) might not be great for your heart. While there's some debate, it's generally a good idea to be mindful of your saturated fat intake, as it could potentially be linked to heart disease and heart attacks. The goal is not to avoid saturated fat entirely, but to be more aware of where these sources come from.

Interesting tidbit –saturated fat from dairy has been linked to lowering heart disease risk!  

2. Trans fats

Most trans fats are actually human-made and go by the name 'partially hydrogenated oils.' You'll spot them hanging out in fast food, fancy restaurant dishes, and tons of processed snacks that have that fried or extra creamy texture.

Here's the deal: while there's a small amount of trans fats that occur naturally in animal products, the big culprits are these man-made sources. These don’t have health benefits and have been directly linked to causing or worsening heart disease.

As of June 2018, the FDA banned adding major sources of artificial trans fats to foods and beverages, but still may be present in those with long shelf lives (or were produced before the ban).Technically a nutrition label can show 0g trans fat if a food contains <0.5g, so be sure to check ingredient lists for partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

3. Monounsaturated Fat

Monounsaturated fats, or MUFAs for short, are fats usually liquid at room temperature. However, they can turn solid in the fridge. You can find MUFAs in foods like olive oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, avocados, peanuts, and various seeds or nuts.

Here's the scoop: research suggests that MUFAs, particularly in plans like the Mediterranean diet, can be pretty darn good for your heart. They have even been linked in improving heart health, and may help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. When you're picking out cooking oils, consider going with olive or avocado oil – a good-for-you choice that adds a pleasant taste to dishes!

4. Polyunsaturated fats

Polyunsaturated fats, or PUFAs, are found in foods like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and cooking oils like corn and safflower oil. Omega-3, a special type of polyunsaturated fat, is the real star of the show. They benefit brain health, reduce risk for heart disease, reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome, and have even been shown to improve autoimmune diseases! You can get your Omega-3 fix from wild salmon, flaxseed, chia, walnuts, and even algae.

And here's the other thing: If you want to jazz up your diet with both protein and these awesome fats, aim for some Omega-3-rich foods like salmon. A total win-win.

Understanding Cholesterol: A Key Player in Our Health

Cholesterol has a pretty important role in our bodies. It's not just about what we eat -- it's involved in key bodily functions. Cholesterol helps with hormone production, like making sure our testosterone and estrogen levels are kept in check. It makes up our cell walls, controlling what gets in and out. Without cholesterol, our bodies wouldn't work quite right.

Now, when it comes to the cholesterol we eat, it's not always a direct road to high cholesterol levels in our blood. High cholesterol is often more about other factors, like our blood sugar or how our liver breaks things down. Our liver's the boss when it comes to cholesterol – it makes and manages it based on what our body needs. Even if we ate no cholesterol, our liver would make sure we had enough to survive.

So, while some folks, especially those with specific health conditions, might need to watch their cholesterol intake, it's not a one-size-fits-all situation. For most of us, it's more about balance and overall lifestyle when it comes to heart health and cholesterol. 

How can eat fat sensibly?

Fat is calorie-dense, and that's true even for those options that seem pretty healthy, like olive oil and nuts. So, keeping an eye on your portion sizes is pretty important. Make sure to check those food labels and measure your servings to avoid accidentally going overboard with calories. Check nutrition labels and content in foods like nuts, butter, or olive oil. We definitely don't want any unexpected calorie surprises, right? And when it comes to high-fat, fried goodies like chicken tenders, fried fish, French fries, and potato chips, it's a good idea to enjoy them on occasion. For your everyday meals, consider healthier cooking methods like air frying or baking.

Remember, fat is not the enemy – in fact, it’s essential! It plays a crucial part in our health and day to day functioning. So, be mindful of what you eat, pay attention to portion sizes, but don’t be afraid of fats! 

Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that have read on this blog or in any linked materials. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before starting new diet, supplement, medication, exercise, or other health plan. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your physician or emergency services immediately. The opinions and views expressed on this blog and website belong that only of the author of that blog article and not any organizations they may represent.
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