There are many different ways that people view fats. The majority of people I have encountered think that fat makes them fat and are on a low fat diet. Other people restrict certain kinds of fat. I am writing this to tell you about how good fat can be for you. As a matter of fact most of you do not get enough healthy fat. Healthy fat that is! Western diet does not recommend enough of it. I try and consume fat along the levels of a Mediterranean diet and recommend that 25-35% of your total calorie intakes be directly from fat. Fat has a lot more calories than carbs and protein so you actually will have smaller portions of food if you use fat properly in your diet so there is no need to worry about gaining weight. In fact you will probably have more energy and feel more satiated.
There are different kinds of fats and some are good and some are bad. However it is not so easy as to just rule different groups of fats as evil and other ones as healthy. No, there are many rules and exceptions all built upon biochemistry. There are two kinds of fats: Saturated and Unsaturated. The term Saturated come from the fact that there are no double carbon bonds in the molecule, instead the carbon atoms are “saturated” with hydrogen bonds. Saturated fat has gotten a bad rap. Yes, you guessed it I am about to tell you to eat it! Many other biochemical factors go into determining if a fat is healthy or not. One would be length of the molecule and the type of fatty acids. A good hint that something is a saturated fat is that it is solid at room temperature and liquefies when it is heated. Thy are derived from plants, land animal meat and products.
I do not eat land animal meat or products, I will talk about that at a later time, however as far as fats go for someone who does eat meat I do not see them as being a source of healthy fats. The only saturated fat that I not only recommend but encourage use of is Coconut Oil. Of all the types of acids in Saturated Fat, Coconut Oil has the highest content of Lauric Acid which is anti-inflammatory, viral, bacterial and fungal. Because it is a Saturated Fat it remains stable at very high heating temperatures and makes it one of the only oils safe to cook with at high temperatures. Olive oil is great chilled on a salad or in a hummus or tahini sauce but when it is heated it can oxidize very quickly. Coconut Oil resists oxidation and has a very long shelf life.
As for Unsaturated Fats, first of all it has one of two configurations (geometric structures). The first one is called “cis” and occurs naturally, the second is called “trans” and occurs through processing and chemical reactions. The latter is also known as Hydrogenated Fats. This is very bad for you and this is the only fat with a hard and fast rule that you should never break. Do not eat them ever! There are two types of Unsaturated Fats: “mono” and “poly”. Monounsaturated fats can be very good for you, supporting your cardiovascular system and lowering bad cholesterol. Olive oil or avocado on a salad are wonderful sources.
Next is Polyunsaturated Fat which is best known as Omega-3 (N-3) and Omega-6 (N-6) Essential Fatty Acids. Omega-3 can be found in seafood (wild) and plants. Most people are actually lacking in it. They are essential to health and perform a variety of functions involving: lowering blood pressure, cardiovascular health, fighting depression and boosting brain function. Good plant sources include flax and chia seeds. Omega-6 on the other hand is more readily consumed in America and an imbalance of N-3:N-6 can cause inflammation. A good ration to follow is a 2:1 many people have a ratio closer to 1:16. There are however some N-6 that actually inhibit versus promote inflammation. These include sources such as Evening Primrose Oil, and Borage Seed oil to name a few which contain the anti-inflammatory factor: Gamma Linolenic Acid. This balance helps to support hormone production and metabolism, reproductive health, skin, hair and nails.
I hope that this has helped to explain the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats. It can be a lot to take in and I did not even go into much detail! As you can see, there are more good than bad fats and most people are not eating enough fat or too much of the wrong kind. So go out, enjoy some avocado and olive oil over a salad for lunch, some tahini for a snack and at dinner relish a delicious piece of wild caught salmon sauteed in coconut oil. You will be doing yourself a favor.