Fat is a very important part of your diet. In fact, every single cell in our body needs fat! For this reason, our diet should be composted of between 20 to 30% fat. Fat is the most concentrated form of energy in the body, supplying 9 calories per gram. The most important thing to remember when consuming fat, is that not all fats behave the same in the body. There are three main categories of fats–saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
- Saturated fats are commonly found in animal products, such as butter, lard, meat, dairy and eggs. Saturated fat is also found in coconut.
- Saturated fats, especially butter and coconut oil, are great for cooking. Because of their saturated structure, they are preferred to cook with because their molecules will not be damaged by high heat. I recommend cooking with coconut oil over olive oil due to the saturated structure.
- Saturated fats should not consist of more than 10% of your total fat intake. High amounts of saturated fats are linked to cardiovascular disease, strokes, cancer, learning disabilities and insulin resistance.
- Coconut Oil: The Exception to the rule. It wouldn’t really be fair to lump coconut oil in with all other saturated fats. Coconut oil has amazing healing properties; in fact, many in the Asian and Pacific populations consider coconut oil to be the cure to all illness. Coconut oil is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and actually boosts the immune system due to its high content of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), also known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). Medium-chain fats boost the metabolism, thus aiding in weight loss. They support the thyroid and have no negative effects on cholesterol. Other uses of coconut oil include the prevention of cancer, kidney disease and liver disease. It is also used as an anti-aging agent and is a beneficial antioxidant. It can help kill many viruses, such as influenza, herpes and measles. It can kill bacteria that causes gum disease, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and throat infections. It can even kill fungi and yeast that causes candida, thrush, ringworm and athletes foot. To say the least, coconut oil is an amazing food!
- The definition of a monounsaturated fatty acid is an unsaturated fatty acid with one double bond. The length of their carbon chains may vary, from 10, 12, 14, 16, or 18-carbon chains. The most important monounsaturated fatty acid is one with 18-carbon chain, known as oleic acid (OA).
- Oleic acid is found in olives, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, pecans, avocados, hazelnuts, cashews and macadamia nuts and the oils derived from these products. OA is also found in canola oil and also in the membranes of plants and and animal cells and in the tissue of most land animals.
- Oleic acid is fluid and therefore can help keep our arteries supple. It is also fairly stable and may resist damage by oxygen. Furthermore, it may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and is therefore an essential part of the diet. These fats are not required by our bodies though, because our bodies can make this type of fat to fulfill requirements. Monounsaturated fats should be 10 to 20% of your total fat intake.
- Especially beneficial are monounsaturated fats from raw almonds, unrefined cold-pressed olive oil and avocados.
- The most important fatty acids, also known as essential fatty acids (EFAs), contain 18 carbon atoms in their chain and more than one double bond. These fats are known as essential fatty acids because they are needed for every cell in our body and they can’t be made in our body, meaning we must get them from our diet. Polyunsaturated fats should consist of the largest percent of fat in your diet. Important: Due to their delicate, long-chain structure, they are very delicate and should never be roasted or heated.
- Omega-6 fatty acids, also known as linoleic acid (LA), contain two double bonds. Healthy omega-6 fatty acids are found in raw sunflower seeds or oil, safflower oil, raw sesame seeds or oil, raw walnuts, raw pumpkin seeds, raw flax seeds or oil and raw wheat germ. Another very healthy fat in this group is known as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and this is found in borage, hemp and evening primrose oil. *Beware of omega-6 fatty acids that have been chemically processed, such as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats). These are extremely damaging to ones health.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, also known as alpha-linolenic acid (LNA), have three double bonds. This is found in raw flax, hemp, walnuts and micro-algae. In this category is also EPA and DHA, which are both found in fish oils, such as cold deep-water fish like wild-caught salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, or tuna. (Note regarding tuna: Please avoid tuna more than twice a month. Tuna is a predatory fish and therefore may contain high amounts of mercury).
- Note: Free-range organic eggs and free-range organic poultry and meats may also contain some omega 3 essential fatty acids.
- These polyunsaturated fats are essential to every single cell in our body. What is even more important is the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. The desired ratio is 3:1 of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Due to all of the processed omega-6 fats, many Americans consume a ratio of 40:1 on a daily basis. This sets the stage for inflammation and disease.
A partial list of the benefits of essential fatty acids:
- healthy immune system
- lower blood pressure
- lower cholesterol levels
- decreased inflammation
- increased metabolism
- decreased blood clotting
- increased learning ability and memory retention
- healthy skin and hair
- These fats make up the cell membranes of every cell in your body!
Omega-6 deficiency symptoms:
- loss of hair
- liver degeneration
- behavioral disturbances
- excessive water loss through skin
- excessive thirst
- increased susceptibility to infections
- poor wound healing
- sterility in males
- miscarriage in females
- heart and circulatory problems
- growth retardation
Omega-3 deficiency symptoms:
- growth retardation
- impaired vision
- impaired learning ability
- impaired motor coordination
- behavioral changes
- high triglycerides
- high blood pressure
- sticky platelets
- dry skin
Chemically-altered fats (trans fats/hydrogenated fats):
- Hydrogenated fats are unhealthy omega-6 fats that have been chemically altered.
- They have been heated to extremely high temperatures and extra hydrogen atoms are forced into the molecule to make it shelf-stable and cost-effective.
- Our bodies are not equipped to handle unnatural fat molecules.
These fats can:
- increase total cholesterol
- increase LDL (bad) cholesterol
- decrease HDL (good) cholesterol
- interfere with the liver’s detoxification system
- cause learning disabilities
- cause digestive disturbances
- increase inflammation
- lead to autoimmune diseases
- cause cancer
- cause heart disease
They are found everywhere:
- fried food
- commercial peanut butter brands (i.e. Jiffy, Skippy)
- bread crumbs
- energy bars
Please read the labels and be fat smart. Remember, fats can heal and fats can kill.