There are many nutritional misconceptions when it comes to nutrition. Arguably the most misunderstood is fat. Despite modern research and common sense, we are still programmed to believe fat is bad especially saturated fats.
There are three categories of fats; saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
- Highly stable due to all carbon bonds being filled with hydrogen
- Their structure allows them to be packed densely together to form a solid or semisolid at room temperature
- Don’t normally go rancid even when heated, perfect for all cooking applications
- Found mostly in animal products and tropical oils
- Their importance is such that the body can make saturated fat from carbohydrates
- Have one double bond as two carbon atoms are double-bonded to each other
- The double bond creates a kink so they don’t pack as tightly as saturated fat and tend to be a liquid at room temperature
- They are relatively stable, can be used for cooking in specific circumstances but optimally consumed raw
- Your body makes monounsaturated fats from saturated fats
- Most monounsaturated fats are found as oleic acid the main component of olive oil
- Have two or more pairs of double bonds creating many kinks and turns so they are very unstable and remain a liquid even when refrigerated
- They are very reactive, go rancid easily and should never be exposed to heat (awful for cooking), oxygen and light
- The two most common polyunsaturated fats are omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids
- “Essential” as the body can’t make them
- Vegetable oils are primarily composed of these fats
All fats regardless of origin are some combination of saturated, mono- and polyunsaturated. Animal fats are primarily saturated. Vegetable oils from northern climates are mostly polyunsaturated. Tropical fats are primarily saturated.
- Coconut oil is 92% saturated. The increase in saturation helps maintain leaf stiffness
All fats come in a variety of lengths from the four to six carbon atoms of a “short-chain” fatty acid to the 20 to 24 carbon atoms of a “very-long-chain” fatty acid. The length differences all play a role in their intrinsic properties and how our body utilizes the fat.
What we are told is that polyunsaturated fats derived from vegetable sources, soy, corn, safflower, and canola for instance are the healthiest options? But how can that be?
Being polyunsaturated they are unstable and prone to rancidity when exposed to heat, light and oxygen. They are promoted to replace “animal fats” yet they are ill-suited to do so. The worst use you can have for a polyunsaturated fat is as a cooking oil.
The rancidity that occurs from heating is a huge source of oxidative stress as the free radicals created travel about the body essentially beating up your cells creating inflammation.
Omega-3 versus Omega-6: We all know the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids (which we are told are only really found in seafood). The reason for their importance is that omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties in the body. Omega-6s on the other hand are pro-inflammatory.
There is a optimal balance or ratio of omega-3 to omega-6. That ratio is between 1:1 and 4:1. Here exists a problem. The typical american diet is strongly in favor of omega-6s; 16, 20, 25 to one in favor. Is it any wonder that we have so many inflammatory diseases?
- Vegetable based fats/oils contain mostly omega-6 fatty acids.
- Fatty/oily seafood consists of mostly omega-3s. Healthy animal products from pastured cows eating grass from nature’s salad bar, chickens raised outside free-range enjoying insects, seeds and grasses and woodlot pigs are also excellent sources of omega-3s
- Animal products from CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) are excellent sources of omega-6s due to their unhealthy upbringing and existence. CAFOs supply just about all the animal products sold in grocery stores
- Organic grains fed to cows/chickens still creates an unhealthy animal and an omega-6 imbalance
Why do we blame traditional foods for modern diseases! Would it make more sense to blame modern food for modern diseases?
Why Saturated Fat is Important? Lard, tallow, butter, palm and coconut oil, duck/goose fat had been the primary fat used for thousands of years and there are very good reasons to continue and/or bring back this practice.
- They make up at least 50 percent of the cell membrane giving them the needed stiffness and integrity so that they can function properly
- They enhance the immune system
- Necessary for healthy bones. For calcium to be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure, saturated fat is needed
- Protect the liver from toxins and alcohol
- Enhance the body’s use of essential fatty acids such as omega-3s
- Stearic acid, found in beef tallow and butter, and Palmitic acid is a preferred food for the heart which is why the fat that surrounds the heart itself is highly saturated
- Saturated fats are stable, they do not become rancid easily, do not call upon the body’s reserves of antioxidants, do not initiate cancer, do not irritate the artery walls.
- Short- and medium-chain saturated fatty acids have antimicrobial properties that protect us against harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract
You may question some of this information so all I can ask is that you do some research and investigate on your own then sit quietly and ask your should what you know to be true.
Next on the agenda is a look at Trans Fats and the process involved in creating them and then finish up with our very special friend cholesterol.