If there is one macro-nutrient that has been horribly maligned by the processed food industry and various organizations, it is most certainly fat! But the right form of fat is not only healthy to eat, but a necessary part of a nutrient dense diet!
I love talking about fat! Why? Because choosing healthy fats is one of the easiest changes you can make to improve your health!
When you start to consume delicious, healthy fats, your body quickly appreciates the effort and rewards you with better skin, less sunburns, maintaining satiety after meals and helping you get off the blood sugar roller-coaster.
So let’s dig in to fats, fatty acids, inflammation and how they are all related to each other!
Consuming Healthy Fat is not Optional
Dietary fat is incredibly important for the proper functioning of our bodies. Simply put, the cell membranes of every cell in your body, is composed of a phospholipid bilayer (read=fats).
Fats provide the structure for your cells, and we need a variety of fats for the different cell structures in different tissues.
Without enough fat, the cell walls loose their integrity and their ability to transport nutrients in and out of the cell becomes compromised. And we need nutrients to live!
Ideally, we need to consume a combination of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats for optimal health.
What are other roles of fats in the body?
Fats serve as a protective lining for organs in the body. They allow for the proper use of proteins, and act as building blocks for our hormones.
They aid in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins ( Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K). Without fat in the body to help process them, these vitamins, and especially synthetic forms of them, will pass right through the body without doing their “job”.
Fat in an incredible source of energy in the body. It slows down our metabolism so that we have steady absorption and utilization of glucose, preventing that 2-hour post meal starving sensation.
Coupled with that, the presence of fat in the small intestine signals the release of cholecystokinin, which among other roles, also sends a message to our brain to trigger satiation.
And no less important than all those reasons, fat tastes good!
What are fatty acids vs. fats?
Alright, I’m getting science-y for a minute, but keep reading and it will all become clear. All of the fats and oils that we consume are actually lipids. Lipids are made of a collection of triglycerides, which are in turn made of three fatty acids and a glycerol molecule.
There are many different types of fatty acids, but roughly, the fats we consume can be classified according to their level of saturation (the most predominant fatty acids in their profile). Keep in mind that most fats most will have a combination of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Fatty Acids and Inflammation
Fatty acids have a special role when it comes to inflammation in the body. Inflammation serves a purpose to heal our cells. We need them to make the inflammation to take care of whatever “issue” the body is dealing with, and we also need them to de-inflame when they finish their job, so to speak.
If you’ve heard the buzz words- Omega 6 and Omega 3 these are essential fatty acids that your body needs for the inflammatory process. They are essential because we have to consume them since our bodies can’t make them on their own.
What do the omegas do? They are involved in the formation of prostaglandins which is the way our body processes inflammation. The prostaglandins are a hormone like substance so they serve as messengers, telling our cells when to open and close channels in the cell and controlling inflammation, among other things.
Linoleic acid, the Omega 6, is converted to a prostaglandin which is anti inflammatory (PGE1) or into arachidonic acid which pro-inflammatory (PGE2). Alpha linolenic acid, the Omega 3, is also converted to an anti-inflammatory prostaglandin (PGE3).
Generally speaking, most of us get too much Omega 6 from all of those “vegetable oils” and not enough Omega 3s. We actually want to keep them in a 2:1 or even 1:1 balance.
Which Fats should we consume?
Saturated Fats: High Heat
The linear chemical structure of saturated fats makes them hard to break, making saturated fats extremely stable even at high temperatures. These are your animal fats and tropical fruit fats. This means that saturated fats are best for cooking.
Examples of saturated fats include:
- Butter and Ghee (clarified butter)
- Duck fat
- Goose fat
- Beef tallow
- Lamb tallow
- Chicken fat (schmaltz)
- Coconut oil
- Red palm oil
Despite years of propaganda against these traditional cooking fats, saturated fats are incredibly healthy.
PRO TIP: If you are working on improving your gut health, saturated fats are particularly important to consume.
Monounsaturated Fats: Moderate Heat
Monounsaturated fats can handle some heat, but are best served raw and unheated. Avocados, have primarily monounsaturated fat (Dreher & Davenport, 2013).
Olive oil specifically can handle higher heat due to its protective polyphenol content. However, you will get the most out of your olive oil if you eat it with your salads and cold foods.
Here are examples of oils you can use:
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil- I only recommend Chosen Foods brand at this time.
- Macadamia nut oil
- Sesame oil
FREE DOWNLOAD: Cooking Fats and Smoke Points – Use this to determine which fats you can use for cooking! [Please leave a comment if you would like this sent to you]
Polyunsaturated Fats: Consuming Essential Fatty Acids
Arachidonic acid is one of the polyunsaturated fatty acids involved in the inflammatory function needed for healing. Arachidonic acid is incredibly important in supporting tight cell junctions (the opposite of leaky gut).
Good sources of arachidonic acid include:
- egg yolks
- lard and tallow
Sources of Omega 3, alpha linolenic acid, include:
- Grass-fed beef
In terms of linoleic acid (LA), the Omega 6, the majority of us have way too much of it in our systems. Therefore I do not recommend focus on their consumption.
If you are eating a balanced nutrient dense diet you will get enough of these from other sources. “Pork, poultry products, and beef liver presented a considerable amount of linoleic acid 11.85%, 19.54%, and 12.09%, respectively” (Vizcarrondo et al, 1998).
Fats to Avoid
All of the highly processed “vegetable” oils used every time you eat out of the house, and in almost all processed foods have a ton of LA. This brings your body into an inflammatory state that is very hard to get rid of, until you cut these oils out of your diet.
While they are very hard to avoid while eating out of the house, at the very least, do not bring them into your home! These fats are damaged and rancid, and they cause damage to your tissue!
Avoid these Polyunsaturated Oils:
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Soybean oil
- Rapeseed oil
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
- Vegetable oil
- Hydrogenated oils/ Margarine
The half life of LA is roughly 680 days (Dayton et al, 1966). Therefore, it will take a long time to change body fat composition in relation to its PUFA content. Please, for your health, avoid these oils.
Ready to Take Control of Your Health?
Incorporating healthy fats, is just one part of consuming a nutrient dense diet. If you would like a personalized nutrition plan created just for you, book a discovery call!
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Dayton, S., Hashimoto, S., Dixon, W., & Pearce, M. L. (1966). Composition of lipids in human serum and adipose tissue during prolonged feeding of a diet high in unsaturated fat. Journal of lipid research, 7(1), 103–111.
Dreher, M. L., & Davenport, A. J. (2013). Hass avocado composition and potential health effects. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 53(7), 738–750. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2011.556759
Araujo de Vizcarrondo, C., Carrillo de Padilla, F., & Martín, E. (1998). Fatty acid composition of beef, pork, and poultry fresh cuts, and some of their processed products. Archivos latinoamericanos de nutricion, 48(4), 354–358.