The Skinny on Dietary Fats

March 06, 2016

The Skinny on Dietary Fats

The Skinny on Dietary Fats

How often do you find yourself scanning the fat count on nutrition labels?

While the quantity of fat consumed (ie. concentrated calories coming in) has a large impact on our health, the quality of fat matters just as much - if not more.

Let's peel back the layers of dietary fat...

Saturated fats.
Long demonized for causing obesity and heart disease, we now see saturated fats in a healthier light. Sources of saturated fats like unrefined coconut oil, ghee and grass-fed butter are highly heat stable, which means their chemical structure isn’t as prone to damage when heated. Optimal for cooking!

Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s), which are fatty acids that go straight from the digestive system to the liver for metabolism. Instead of being stored as fat, these MCT’s provide a source of immediate energy. Coconut oil is also high in lauric acid - a type of MCT with anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.

Best to steer clear of cooking with polyunsaturated oils like soybean, canola, corn and sunflower. These oils are super sensitive to heat and light, and can contribute to free radical damage in the body (not to mention they undergo heavy processing and are often devoid of nutrients). If you're using a high quality heat-sensitive oil (like extra virgin olive oil), drizzle it over your kale salad rather than pan-frying.

Hydrogenated fats.
These artificial fats are pretty much the worst. Hydrogenation involves the forced addition of hydrogen into the empty spaces between long chain fatty acids (vegetable oils). This process works to chemically harden oils at room temperature and thus give them a longer shelf life (ie. margarine). Hydrogenated fats, a.k.a trans fats, are very difficult for the body to metabolize, and they end up getting “stuck” in blood circulation.

While trans fats are banned in the US, and Canada has limited them to 2% of an oil’s total fat content, they still sneak up as partially hydrogenated oils on ingredient labels.

Essential fatty acids (omega 3 & 6).
We rely on essential fats for functions like immunity, blood clotting, brain health, hormonal balance, healthy cholesterol levels and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (to name a few). Our bodies can’t produce EFA's, so we need to obtain them through diet. 

The ideal ratio of omega 6's to 3's should be about 2:1, however the standard North American diet is typically way higher in 6's. This is partially due to the pro-inflammatory nature of arachidonic acid (one form of omega-6) found in corn and grain fed meats, hydrogenated fats and processed junk foods.

To offset inflammation and balance out our EFA ratio, we can consume foods higher in omega-3's such as avocado, raw nuts, flax seed, wild fish and grass-fed meat.
Sea vegetables and cold water fatty fish contain the preformed omega-3’s EPA and DHA, which the body can absorb right away.

Keep up the good fats!
 



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