Fat is a necessary part of our diet; however we need to know our limit.
Posted on January 12th, 2014

Dr Hector Perera      London

When choosing the best foods for a healthy diet it is important to not completely eliminate fat. Omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are considered healthy fats. Healthy fats differ from unhealthy fats because healthy fats are responsible for numerous bodily functions, where unhealthy fats are empty calories which have no nutritional value.

Before looking at the different types of healthy fats, it is important to understand the bodily functions that healthy fat is generally responsible for. The human brain is made up of 60 percent fat. Fat is essential for brain functions such as memory, learning capability and mood.

Additionally, fat serves as a cushion and insulator for body organs and nerves and helps the heart to function regularly, because 60 percent of the heart’s energy comes from burning fat. Individual cells use fat to build membranes and the presence of fat helps cells to remain flexible. Healthy fat also plays a role in the proper function of lungs, eyes and the immune system.

Healthy fat is also important for the digestive system. Fat helps to slow down the rate of digestion, which allows for the absorption of nutrients and provides a constant level of energy to the body. Consumption of healthy fat will also help to satisfy hunger for longer periods of time.

The first type of fat is polyunsaturated fat, which is found in vegetable oils such as corn, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed and soy. They are also found in nuts and seeds. Lowered blood pressure and triglyceride levels are two benefits that polyunsaturated are responsible for.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that are known as the healthiest of all fats. They are found in salmon, mackerel, sardines and other fatty fish. Omega-3’s are also found in flax seed, flax seed oil, soybeans, walnuts and canola oil. The primary function of omega-3’s is their responsibility in reducing incidences of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In addition to fighting CVD, omega-3 fatty acids are believed to be a possible prevention and treatment for liver cancer, depression and dementia.

The third type of healthy fat is monounsaturated fat. These fats can be found in olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, avocadoes and nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and pecans. Monounsaturated fats are believed to lower the bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, while possibly increasing the good high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol. Additionally, monounsaturated fats may help lower blood pressure and improve insulin sensitivity.

Unsaturated fat is one of the three main types of fats, the other two being saturated fat and trans fat. These unsaturated fats are perhaps more commonly known as vegetable oils, since they are almost always plant-based, although there are some naturally unsaturated fats in certain meats. This type of fat remains in a liquid or oily state at room temperature, and is thought to be the healthiest option of the three types of fat; some examples of unsaturated fat include corn oil, olive oil, canola oil, and peanut oil. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are two types of unsaturated fat, the main difference between them being how many double bonds occur in their structure.

 There are four major types of fats:

Monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, saturated fats and trans fats.

Monounsaturated good fats are as follows:

Olive oil, Canola oil, Sunflower oil, Peanut oil, Sesame oil, Avocados, Olives, Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews), Peanut butter.

 Polyunsaturated good fats are as follows:

Soybean oil, Corn oil, Safflower oil, Walnuts, Sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds, Flaxseed, Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines), Soymilk, Tofu.

 Bad Fats or saturated fats are as follows:

High-fat cuts of meat (beef, lamb, pork), Chicken with the skin, Whole-fat dairy products (milk and cream), Butter, Cheese, Ice cream, Lard (pig fats).

Bad fats or trans fats are as follows:

Commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough, Packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips), Stick margarine, Vegetable shortening, Fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, breaded fish), Candy bars.

 Saturated fats versus unsaturated fat.

This word unsaturated hydrocarbon is not something new even to a GCSE student so if I used these kinds of words in my explanations, one cannot say it’s too much. Unsaturated and saturated fat are essentially composed from the same raw ingredients, including carbon and hydrogen atoms. Saturated fats, such as the fat formed in animals, contain chains of carbon atoms with single bonds to hydrogen atoms; because the chain of fat contains all the hydrogen it can hold, it is considered to be fully saturated with hydrogen. The result is a solid fat product, like butter or lard or pig fat, which studies have shown can lead to heart disease if eaten in excess, yes if eaten in excess. While it may be unwise for some people to eliminate all saturated fat from one’s diet, using unsaturated fat alternatives, such as olive or canola oils, may be beneficial.

Unlike saturated fat, fat that is unsaturated usually contains an unstable amount of hydrogen atoms; the result is a chain of fat that is lacking hydrogen atoms. Due to the lack of hydrogen, the fat chain is generally unstable and ripe for attack from oxygen atoms, which may cause it to turn rancid. This form of fat is considered to be unsaturated, because it has not taken on all the hydrogen it can hold, and the fat will remain liquid at room temperature because of its incomplete bonding process. The liquid form is also what makes cooking oils ideal for certain recipes and cooking processes, since they do not solidify as easily as saturated fats.

 Trans fat versus unsaturated fat

Through a process called hydrogenation, a new form of fat is formed called trans fat, or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Hydrogenation can occur because unsaturated fat still has room to accommodate hydrogen atoms; by bubbling pure hydrogen gas through tanks of unsaturated fats, trans fat can be made. This new form of fat combines the stability and solidity of saturated fats with the cost benefits of unsaturated fats, but is also responsible for increased plaque formation. Consumers seeking a truly healthy diet should avoid trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils, altogether and limit daily fat intake to less than 30% of the total calorie count. Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids, or medium chain triglycerides also known as MCT. MCT are different from the commonly used long chain triglycerides or LCT, found in animal saturated fat sources. LCT are typically stored in the body as fat, while MCT’s are quickly digested and used for energy, and are not readily converted to stored fat so eating coconut oil is not that bad.

Greedy temptation

Let me put in other words that means try and limit eating these things on daily basis and on large scale. Sometimes, we cannot pick and choose foods but certainly we can cut down the greedy temptation to eat these things on regular basis also in large portions. These are the commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough, Apart from that, packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips), stick margarine, vegetable shortening, fried foods such as French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, breaded fish) and candy bars.

Simple ways to reduce saturated fat

Eat less red meat (beef, pork, or lamb) and more fish and chicken.

Go for lean cuts of meat, and stick to white meat, which has less saturated fat. When making minced beef they always add any waste such as fat than throwing them away so be careful in eating minced meat, actually better to stay away by eating minced beef. Bake, broil, or grill instead of frying. Remove the skin from chicken and trim as much fat off of meat as possible before cooking. Even on bacon cut off the white skin before frying because it has nothing but fat. In eating fried chicken also get rid of the skin even they have fried with the skin. I know for fact they wrap the skin around a mixture that taste nice so you are tempted to eat, am I correct? Again let me say, try and avoid breaded meats including chicken and vegetables and deep-fried foods.

If possible choose low-fat milk and lower-fat cheeses like mozzarella whenever possible; enjoy full-fat dairy in moderation. The supermarkets have low fat and full milk with blue and green tops on the plastic container, so easy to find which one has full or low fat. Most of the times use liquid vegetable oils such as olive oil or canola oil instead of lard, shortening, or butter. I know when making fried rice most people use butter or lard but try and avoid.

I know it’s not easy but try and avoid cream and cheese sauces, or have them served on the side or eat moderately.

 Some advantages

Health experts are quick to point out the advantages of unsaturated fats over saturated or trans-fats when following heart-healthy diets. The reason why unsaturated fat is considered healthier than the other types of fat is due to the nature of the fat molecules once they reach the bloodstream; saturated or trans fat molecules have a natural tendency to bond with each other on contact, which eventually leads to the formation of artery-clogging plaque. Unsaturated fat, however, contains larger molecules that tend to slide past each other in the bloodstream, which results in little to no plaque build-up; some studies have shown that unsaturated fat can help improve a person’s blood cholesterol levels. By the way when did you check the cholesterol level, perhaps get the medical attention.

 Some disadvantages

One major disadvantage of unsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil, is that they will eventually turn rancid as oxygen molecules from the air mix with the hydrogen and carbon atoms in the fat. As a result, most commercial food producers do not use many unsaturated fats in their products. Products typically made with unsaturated fat, such as cookies or fried snacks, would only last a few days on store shelves; however, using unsaturated fat to make these same products is okay if they will be eaten within a relatively short amount of time. Also, while unsaturated fat may be considered the healthiest of the three types of fat, it is still unhealthy if eaten in excess or without other necessary nutrients. That means need to watch out for our greedy eagerness in eating anything, try and know your limits. I know it’s not easy but you can always try.

Your comments are welcomed perera6@hotmail.co.uk

One Response to “Fat is a necessary part of our diet; however we need to know our limit.”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    Thank you, Dr Perera.

    A bit of butter is better than marg. Margarine is just one molecule away from plastic. It is a processed fat and the body does not know how to deal with it or absorb it, and as a result is dangerous.

    A lot of baked goods may use marg. All eatables ought to be labelled properly re fat content, type of fat, etc.

    Sorry, marg producers ! Make butter & ghee for Lanka. Butter is better.

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