Even the world FAT nowadays sounds like a risk to the health and weight. Will fat make me fat? Do I have to avoid it? Why do we need fat? Are saturated fats really dangerous to our health?
What is fat?
Fat is one of the three macronutrients (together with proteins and carbohydrates). It’s primary function - an energy reserve.
All fats consist of long chains of fatty acids bonded together with glycerol.
Fat gives food its good taste – meat or dairy is more tasty full fat, because proteins themselves are nearly tasteless.
Importance of fat
Our body can’t produce fatty acids, so it must come with the food. Fat should never be avoided. Essential fatty acids ensure brain development, blood clotting and aid in inflammatory control.**
- A source of backup energy in cases when carbohydrates are not available;
- Energy storage for later use – if we consume more food than we, excess energy is stored under the skin;
- Inner organs’ protection - fat around inner organs protects them from trauma;
- Vitamin solvent - helps to absorb fat- soluble vitamins A, D, E and K;
- Provider with essential fatty acids, essential for growth, development and cell functions;
- Body temperature maintainer by forming a thin fat layer under the skin to insulate body from extreme temperatures;
- Regulating the forming of steroid hormones;
- Proper functioning of the nerves, brain and cells insurer – fat is a part of every cell’s membrane;
- Healthy skin and hair maintainer by providing vitamins A, D, E and K.
Types of fat
Fats and oils are categorized according to the number and bonding of the carbon atoms.
Generally fats are divided in two groups: saturated and unsaturated.*
Unsaturated fats, which are liquid at room temperature, are found in foods from plants, such as vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. Unsaturated fats can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation and stabilize heart rhythms.*
Saturated fats stay solid in room temperature. They are found in animal and some plant foods, such as coconut, coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil. Saturated fats ensure proper brain, immune, nerve system’s work, improve cardiovascular, lung, liver health, and strengthens bones.
All foods that contain fats have a mix of saturated and unsaturated fats.
Most important polyunsaturated fats Omega 3 and Omega 6 rich foods should be in our everyday diet. Oily fish (e.g. herring, salmon and mackerel), flax seeds are a good source of omega-3, while omega-6 is mainly found in plant foods such as sunflower oil and rapeseed oil.
Trans fats can be natural or artificial. Natural trans fats are found in small amounts in milk, beef, cheese. Artificially created through a process known as hydrogenation (which involves heating and chemical structure change), are mostly found in fast foods, fried foods and commercially baked products such as cookies. These are very harmful to your health.***
How much fat do we need? Judgments and justification of fats
Fat is the highest in calories among the three macronutrients - it has 9 kcal per gram, when carbs and proteins have 4 kcal per gram each. But here lays the biggest misconception that we should minimize fat. Fat don’t make us fat. Fat, unlike sugar, has “natural protection” from overeating – it’s very unlikely for us to eat too much fat, because it will make us sick immediately.
Nutritionist recommend that adults should get 20%-35% of their calories from fats. You also may find some doctors and dietitians advice to take even up to 50%. There are studies that showed that bigger part of fat intake (ant cut on carbs) helps to lose weight.
Ketogenic diet is becoming more popular. It helps not only to lose weight, but also heal certain diseases, such as cancer, diabetes. The cancer cells mainly feed on glucose. Ketogenic diet limits carbohydrates to 50g per day or completely eliminates them. The body, without getting carbohydrates and unable to make glucose, starts to produce energy from fats and to release ketones - the end-products of fat metabolism. Energy is produced from fat which comes from food and if you limit the number of calories - from the body fat.
A ketogenic diet also lowers blood glucose, which also means lower insulin levels. High insulin is a risk factor for cancer, as it stimulates cancer cell growth. Lower insulin also helps in losing weight, because insulin stops burning processes.
Dietitians disagree whether proteins and fats fully replace carbs. Studies have proven its benefits in weight loss and disease control, but what about long-term health impact? Some say that body needs protein to make muscles and using protein instead of carbohydrates for fuel also puts stress on the kidneys. Proteins are also much more difficult to digest due to lower acidity of the stomach, and also with age.
Other specialists say that people can stay on ketonic diet all the time. It is our decision to make what is best for us. Just to mention that there are essential proteins (to be more precise, its components - amino acids) and essential fats, without which our body couldn't survive. However, there are no replaceable carbohydrates - if they are missing, body just starts using fats and proteins.
We advise not avoid good quality, organic foods: eggs, red meet, butter, coconut oil and listen to your body – it will tell you how much fat do you need.
Advocacy on saturated fats
In the recent 30 years, nothing received so much judgment as saturated fats. They were (and still are) considered unhealthy, to raise ‘bad’ cholesterol levels and cause cardiovascular diseases.
Judgment of fat began in 1970, with the first publication of “The Seven Countries Study. As it showed later, study had many flaws, and did not take into account smoking, sugar consumption, exercise and other important factors. Low fat products became very popular. But consuming low fat products had adverse effects on the obesity. For example, over last 30 years, fat consumption in USA lowered from 40% to 30% and the obesity has doubled!
There are over a 1000 new studies on the saturated fats showing that there is no link between saturated fats, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Still, many doctors and associations will disagree and hold on to the anti–fat position. Sweden has become the first country in the Western world to dismiss low-fat diets in favor of high fat, low carbohydrate ones.****
Recent studies show the actual importance of the saturated fats: *****
- Improved cardiovascular risk factors
- Weight loss
- Stronger bones
- Improved liver health
- Healthy lungs
- Healthy brain
- Proper nerve signaling
- Strong immune system
This doesn’t mean every source of saturated fat is healthy. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that after analyzing the diets of 1.2 million people, there was no association between eating red meat and heart disease. But there was for those who ate a lot of processed meat. So this shows that not all saturated fat is equal.
Choose saturated fats from natural sources, like good quality grass-fed steak, free range eggs, coconut oil, butter, full fat dairy and fermented aged cheese. Avoid saturated fats in processed foods, like fried foods, sausages, baked sweet cakes with palm oil.
- Every fat containing product is combined of saturated and unsaturated fats. Don’t avoid saturated fats that come naturally: grass-fed organic beef and beef fat, naturally raised lamb, organic dairy products (butter, cheese, milk, cream), coconut oil
- Avoid processed, fried foods and foods containing artificial trans fats
- Try it yourself! If you are about to lose some weight – try to replace some carbs and sugars with fat rich products. Share your results with us!
* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat ** http://www.livescience.com *** http://www.eatbalanced.com/why-eat-balanced/why-do-we-need-fat/ **** https://greatist.com/health/saturated-fat-healthy *****http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/09/22/7-reasons-to-eat-more-saturated-fat.aspx