Fats- What are they and how do we classify them?
We always talk about fats, protein and carbohydrates but a lot of people really don´t know what they are. So, if they don´t know what they are, how are they going to understand what we are talking about? So in my next blogs I will just try to give a brief description of each macronutrient and some vital information that most people should know. Today we will start with FATS.
We should all know that 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories, this is more than 1 gram of carbohydrates (which contains 4 calories), and 1 gram of proteins (which also contains 4 calories).
Fats can basically be divided into:
- Saturated fats (read more here)
- Unsaturated fats.
We used to think that saturated fats were really bad for us (and I did 2 blogs on it), but now we know they are not that bad and should be included in our diet once in a while. You can find saturated fats in these foods: butter, cheese, dairy fat, chocolate, egg yolk, meat fat….with the exception of the tropical oils, saturated fats are primarily animal fats. Saturated fats lack the essential fatty acids you need, so you must balance them with the unsaturated fats.
Unsaturated fats can be divided into:
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats. These contain the healthy essential fatty acids.
Essential Fatty Acids- are those that your body can´t make on its own, so they must be supplied through your diet. The two primary essential fatty acids are omega 6 and omega 3. The modern Western diet today is very high in omega 6 fatty acids as compared to omega 3- with a ratio of 20-1. The optimal should be 2:1 (click here for more information).
One of the reasons for this imbalance is our increased consumption of refined grains and decreased consumption of omega 3 rich fish. As well as the industrial production of animal feeds containing grains high in omega 6 fatty acids. Since animals are what they eat, their meat becomes high in omega 6, unlike the leaner and higher omega 3 wild game that our ancestors once ate. As we consume high-omega 6 meats and refined grains, we lose the natural balance we once thrived on and begin to suffer from inflammatory and cardiovascular disease that were once unheard of. Many of the current diseases develop and exist as consequence of chronic inflammation, such as cancer, heart disease, hypertension, osteoarthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, etc. (1-4)
FATS TO AVOID: HYDROGENATED AND TRANS-FATTY ACIDS- We could say these are the ¨processed fats¨. Hydrogenated oils contain large amounts of chemically altered fats know as trans-fatty acids and these are one of the unhealthiest foods you can eat. You find these fats in food like: MARGARINE, CRACKERS, DOUGHNUTS, PIES, BISCUITS, FRIED FOOD. Epidemiologic evidence has linked trans fatty acids (TFAs) in the diet to coronary heart disease in human populations. It has been estimated that dietary TFAs from partially hydrogenated oils may be responsible for between 30,000 and 100,000 premature coronary deaths per year in the United States. (5).
So in conclusion: Saturated Fats are not that bad and once in a while you can eat them. Unsaturated fats are called the ¨healthy fats¨ and again we should be eating them in our diet. On the other hand, we should really try to stay away from the hydrogenated and trans fats!
Hoped you liked it.
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- Ross R. Atherosclerosis-an inflammatory disease. N Engl J Med 1999;340:115-26.
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- Zaloga GP1, Harvey KA, Stillwell W, Siddiqui R. Trans fatty acids and coronary heart disease. Nutr Clin Pract.2006 Oct;21(5): 505-12