Our body requires fatty acids for energy and to process certain vitamins and minerals.
In the last decades, you can see that many of the grocery stores have been stocked with a variety of fat-free and low-fat food products.
Because fat is high in calories, eliminating it seemed like a good way to manage weight and improve health.
Unfortunately, instead of fats in these food products, you will find, added sugars and refined carbohydrates.
That adds up to a lot of extra calories with little to no nutritional value.
Too much fat in the diet, especially saturated fats, can raise cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart diseases.(1)
- Fats from the diet are essential for energy production and for support cell growth.
- Fats protect the organs and help keep your body warm.
- Fats help your body absorb some nutrients like vitamins A, D and E and produce important hormones.
As healthy fats, unsaturated fats from omega 3 are essential to consume in our diet.
Several sources of information suggest that human beings evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids of approximately 1 whereas in Western diets the ratio is 15/1-16.7/1.
Western diets are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids and have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids.
Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) exert suppressive effects.
A lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is more desirable in reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases. (2)
Supplementing of Essential Fatty Acid, omega 3, is useful especially for who concerns including:
- Chronic pain
- Inflammatory conditions
- Cardiovascular risk
- Concentration and memory support
What are the different fatty acids? & How to eat healthy fats wisely?
Any fat not used by your body’s cells or to create energy is converted into body fat.
Likewise, unused carbohydrate and protein are also converted into body fat.
All types of fat are high in energy.
A gram of fat, whether saturated or unsaturated, provides 9kcal (37kJ) of energy compared with 4kcal (17kJ) for carbohydrate and protein.
Most fats and oils contain both saturated and unsaturated fats in different proportions.
Saturated fat will be solid at room temperature
Unsaturated fat will be liquid at room temperature
Saturated fat comes mainly from meat, butter and dairy products.
Foods high in saturated fats:
- fatty cuts of meat
- meat products, including sausages and pies
- butter, ghee and lard
- cheese, especially hard cheese like cheddar
- double/single cream, soured cream and ice cream
- some savoury snacks, like cheese crackers and some popcorns
- chocolate confectionery
- biscuits, cakes and pastries
- palm oil
- coconut oil* and coconut cream
Science has no clear message regarding the health effects of saturated fats. Keep your intake of saturated fatty acids low by replacing them with unsaturated fats and unrefined carbohydrates. (4)
Not all saturated fats are equal:
*Coconut oil contains a unique composition of fatty acids.
The fatty acids are about 90% saturated. But coconut oil is perhaps most unique for its high content of the saturated fat lauric acid, which makes up around 40% of its total fat content, coconut oil also gives to “good” HDL cholesterol a boost. (3)
Grass-fed beef products –
There are differences in nutritional quality between grass-fed and grain-fed cattle.
Grass-fed beef higher in precursors for Vitamin A and E, omega-3 fatty acids and CLA. (5)
Unsaturated fat comes mainly from vegetables, nuts, and fish.
fatty acids that have one double bond in the fatty acid chain, with all of the remaining carbon atoms being single-bonded.
Monounsaturated fats help protect our hearts by maintaining levels of good HDL cholesterol while reducing levels of bad LDL cholesterol.
Monounsaturated fats are found in:
- olive oil
Omega 9 & Omega 7
Omega-9 fats are “non-essential,” because our bodies can synthesize them from other things we eat, and we don’t have to depend on direct dietary sources.
The main omega-9 is oleic acid, found in olive oil, peanut oil and sunflower oil.
The most common omega-7 fatty acid in nature is palmitoleic acid.
Rich sources include macadamia nut oil and sea buckthorn oil.
There are two main types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 and omega-6.
The body needs omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids – we must get them from our diets.
Omega 6 fats are found in vegetable oils, such as:
- some nuts
There are two critical forms of omega-3: EPA and DHA.
Omega-3s are important components of the membranes that surround each cell in your body.
DHA levels are especially high in the retina (eye), brain, and sperm cells.
Omega-3s also provide calories to give your body energy and have many functions in your heart, blood vessels, lungs, immune system, and endocrine system (the network of hormone-producing glands). (5)
These types of omega-3 fats are found mainly in oily fish, such as:
Walnuts and flaxseeds contain a precursor omega-3, ALA, which can be converted by the body.
Most of us are not getting enough omega-3 from the diet.
There’s one bad fat that you should avoid: Trans fats.
They have no nutritional value and are harmful to your health.
They’re often found in fried foods, processed snacks, and baked goods.
Known as: Trans fats / hydrogenated oils/ margarine.
Trans fats are also found naturally at low levels in some foods, such as meat and dairy products.
Hydrogenated vegetable oil must be declared on a food’s ingredients list if present.
Like saturated fats, trans fats can raise cholesterol levels in the blood.
Saturated fats got a bad reputation. Then, food manufacturers decided to start using more unsaturated fats.
They promote using margarine instead of a butter for example.
The use unsaturated fats through the process of hydrogenation, which essentially alters the chemical structure of unsaturated fats and makes them more solid and long-lasting.
However, when unsaturated fat is hydrogenated, a new fat called trans fat is produced.
The food you should pay attention to a fat content – Fried, doughnuts, cookies, and crackers.
Trans fat rarely exists in nature and has been shown to be toxic to the body.
Not only does it increase levels of “bad” cholesterol, but it also decreases levels of “good” cholesterol.
Trans fat lowers “good” HDL cholesterol and raises the “bad” LDL variety.
SUPPLEMENT WITH OMEGA 3-6-7-9
The omega-3 supplements that include omega 6-7-9 are not necessary, because our diet is abundant in omega 6 and our body can produce omega 7 and 9.
My name is Pazit, I’m a registered Naturopath N.D. , MNNA (a member of the Naturopathic Nutrition Association), Herbalist, Aromatherapist and Bach Flower remedies therapist based in London.
www.pazbynature.com Health & Wellness Blog includes travel inspiration, healthy food and natural remedies.