I am finally going to move away from my ramblings on sugar for a while, I am starting to bore myself! This week my aim is to try and dispel the myth that fat is the root of all evil. There are different types of fat and they all have a place in the functioning of the body. So the purpose of this post is to explain the difference between the three. Hopefully without getting too scientific we will learn to embrace the fat!!
Ok so a bit of Science to get us going (don’t tune out yet!!).
There are three forms of fats. Saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
All fat is made up of three elements (remember the periodic table) carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. Saturated fats simply means that all the carbon atoms are full up or saturated with hydrogen atoms. Because of this, these fats tend to be solids at room temperature. These fats contain 9kcal/gram.
Foods include; butter, cream, cheese, meats, milk, coconut oil, eggs etc. Generally animal products.
The word mono means one. So monounsaturated fats simply have one carbon atom missing a hydrogen atom (unsaturated). These fats tend to be liquid at room temperature. These fats also contain 9kcal/gram.
Foods include; plant based oils such as olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, sesame oil etc
The word poly means many. Therefore this simply means there are many carbon atoms missing hydrogen atoms (unsaturated). These fats again contain 9kcal/gram. Omega 3 and omega 6 are the more commonly used terms for polyunsaturated fats.
Omega – 3 fats include; oily fish such as salmon, cod, halibut, herring, trout, flaxseed, walnuts, omega -3 eggs and chia seeds.
Omega – 6 fats include; avocado, nuts such as almonds, cashews, seeds such as hemp, sesame, pumpkin, shellfish and egg yolk.
So why all the talk about the omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids? The body is such an amazing machine. It is able to make fatty acids for itself, these are called non essential fats as we don’t need to worry about eating them. However there are a group of fats, called the essential fatty acids. They are referred to as essential as the body cannot make them and so we must include them in our diet. These are the omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
So now we know the chemical structure of fats and which fats we must eat. What do these fats actually do for the body. What is their function?
- Fat supply calories to the body. In fact it provides 9 calories/gram, more than twice the number provided by carbohydrates (4 calories/gram) or protein (4 calories/gram). Therefore fat is an excellent source of energy helping us to stay fuller for longer.
- Fats provide the essential fatty acids, which are not made by the body and must be obtained from food. They are important for controlling inflammation, blood clotting, and brain development (remember your parents trying to get you to eat fish as it is good for the brain!)
- Fat serves as the storage substance for the body’s extra calories. It fills the fat cells (adipose tissue) that help insulate the body. When the body has used up the calories from carbohydrates, which occurs after the first 20 minutes of exercise, it begins to depend on the calories from fat.
- Healthy skin and hair are maintained by fat. Fat helps the body absorb and move the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K through the bloodstream.
- Eating fats especially omega 3 and 6 fats for breakfast will ensure you are burning fat for fuel all day, helping to lean you up. So ditch the cereal and have some eggs and avocado.
So if fats are so amazing (and yes they are) why are we all being told to reduce our fat intake. Well there is one more part to the puzzle. There is another type of fat. This is the root of all evil. This is the fat that is getting our poor saturated fat into so much trouble. This fat is called TRANS FAT. Trans fats came into our diet only a short time ago with the introduction of food processing. Trans fats are by-product of hydrogenation. This means adding hydrogen atoms into the fat. Reasons for doing so; to make the fat more solid, give it a smoother texture and make it more stable (longer shelf life).
Foods include; processed fatty foods such as pizza, burgers, chips, doughnuts, biscuits, muffins, cookies, crisps (yes all the nice stuff!)
Why do we need to stay away from these evils fats. They are carcinogenic, cause coronary heart disease, raise bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower good cholesterol (HDL) and increase inflammation. To name but a few. If you are consuming these foods daily, you are putting yourself at serious risk of future health problems.
Below is a picture of my Uncle Michael, a dairy farmer from the beautiful countryside of Tipperary. This mans diet consists of real butter, real milk, cream and meats and has done so everyday since he was a child. He is now 66 and is the fittest man of his age I know. He has a clean bill of health, astonishing doctors that he has never presented with health issues, only for his check ups. I used to wonder how can he eat like this and stay so fit and healthy. Thinking he should be eating low low spread on his potatoes and skimmed milk. Now I realise of course that he rarely eats trans fats. He only eats natural ‘real’ foods. And then goes back onto his farm, working hard, using up all the amazing energy the fat has given him. Think back to your own grandparents and how they ate. Decide for yourself if they were healthier than our generation. Was obesity as much an issue. Was heart disease?
In my humble opinion, you should never fear the fats. Fats are natural products that your body craves. I incorporate all fats in my diet. Ensuring I eat more of the essential fatty acids like the omega 3 and omega 6. I avoid (except on occasion) the unnatural trans fats. My philosophy is always to eat real foods.
So this week why not ditch and biscuit and figure out what to do with an avocado. They make the best snack. Or just hang around until next week and I’ll show you how I use this green creamy delight.
Have a great week guys.
The Wholesome Nut