Any serious dieter needs to understand the types of fats that are present in the standard western diet and to know which types of fat need to be avoided or minimised in our diets.
Some people fear all fats. Many of the shelves in our supermarkets are stacked high with low fat food. So you might assume that fat is to blame for the obesity epidemic in the western world. But fat is only part of the problem. Obesity is much more complicated than just overeating a single nutrient. Eating more calories from fats, carbohydrates, protein, and alcohol than you are able to burn off leads to weight gain.
The basic problem is that people who get too little physical activity and eat a diet high in calories are going to gain weight. Genetics, age, sex, and lifestyle also weigh into the weight-gain formula.
Fats are a type of nutrient that you get from your diet. You need fat to keep your skin and hair healthy. Fat also helps you absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K, the so-called fat-soluble vitamins. Fat fills your fat cells and insulates your body to help keep you warm.
The fats that you get from food food gives your body essential fatty acids called linoleic and linolenic acid. These “essential” because your body cannot make them itself, or work without them. Your body needs them for brain development, controlling inflammation, and blood clotting. (Who would want to go on a low fat diet and risk having too few of these babies!)
Fat has 9 calories per gram, more than 2 times the number of calories in carbohydrates and protein, which each have 4 calories per gram.
All fats are made up of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Fats are called saturated or unsaturated depending on how much of each type of fatty acid they contain.
What are the types of Fat, Hans?
1. Saturated fats.
Foods with a lot of saturated fats are animal products, such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream, and fatty meats. Some vegetable oils such as coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils also contain saturated fats.
Until recently we were warned to avoid saturated fats or we would all die of heat attacks and blocked arteries. But newer studies have debunked those old scare stories and now we can tuck into a plate of steak and eggs without any feelings of guilt of fear.
2. Unsaturated fats.
- Mono-unsaturated fats, which include olive and canola oil (These are the good Unsaturated fats)
- Polyunsaturated fats, which include safflower, sunflower, corn, and soy oil (These are poisonous industrial sludge and should be avoided at all costs)
3. Trans Fats.
Trans fatty acids are unhealthy fats that form when vegetable oil hardens in a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenated fats, or “trans fats,” are often used to keep some foods fresh for a long time. Trans fats are also used for cooking in some restaurants. They can raise LDL cholesterol levels in your blood. They can also lower your HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. (These fats are lethal and should be avoided 100%)
Cholesterol occurs naturally in animals and is an essential part of life. About 80% of cholesterol is made by our liver while the other 20% comes from our diet. The cholesterol that comes from the diet is low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This is known as the “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to the formation of sticky plaques in our arteries. Due to these plaques, blood flow is reduced and can lead to heart attacks or strokes (brain attacks). Scientific studies have shown that our blood cholesterol levels are more affected by the amount of saturated fat rather than cholesterol that we eat. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is known as the “good” cholesterol because it can reverse the build up of plaque in our arteries. This cholesterol does not come directly from food but is produced in our body and can be increased through exercise and by increased consumption of vegetables and fruit. (The reader should be careful not to be scared by a lot of the hype around Cholesterol. A lot of the old scare stories are being debunked by newer more rigorous studies)
But don’t let me waffle on about fats. Lets watch a few videos by the experts from each side of the debate.
Dietary Fats: The Good the Bad and the Ugly
This is a quite good video, but it is old school mainstream stuff. I disagree with what the lady has to say about saturated fat but I suspect that she was trained in mainstream nutrition and brainwashed by some of the out of date mainstream science that pushed the low fat paradigm. Having said that 90% of the video is good and is worth watching,
Now watch Gary Taubes blow a lot of the mainstream hysteria about fat out of the water.
Gary Taubes – What if fat doesn’t make you fat?
And some more …
Why We Get Fat – Gary Taubes at OSUMC
And another expert on the proper place for fats in our diet. Dr Robert Lustig.
Dr Lustig explains that while we were avoiding fat, we all got obese eating sugar.
FAT Chance – Dr. Robert Lustig
Here is another excellent lecture on why we should eat more saturated fats.
Enjoy Eating Saturated Fats: They’re Good for You. Donald W. Miller, Jr., M.D.