Good fats vs bad fats

You are what you eat?

Our body’s require a wide array of nutrients — and fat is no exception. We’ve come to understand that saturated fats & essential fatty acids not only keep our belly’s full, but that they also keep us healthful. These nutrients actually become part of our physical make-up (our cell membranes) to ensure that we function optimally. (Particularly our immune system, our hormonal system and our nervous system.)

While thankfully we’ve disregarded the old belief that by eating fat we become fat, we need to be aware that there are still ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats out-there. Here, we’ll look at the different types of fat, and you’ll be given examples of each. Let’s start with the good fats first:

Good Fats

Fatty acids are the building blocks of fat, and include:

Saturated Fatty Acids
This type of fat is solid at room temperature, and it is stable when heated.
It is found primarily in food that comes from animals e.g. meat, cheese, butter and eggs.
Coconut oil is also a saturated fat.

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs)
This includes omega-9.
You can find this type of fat in olives, macadamia nuts, peanuts and avocados.
A large amount of these fats are found in a Mediterranean diet.

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs)
These include omega-3. (Which is also known as Alpha Linolenic acid).
You can find this type of fat in flaxseeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, and fish. (As well as grass-fed meat & eggs when the animals & chickens have been fed a diet containing flaxseed.)
These also include omega-6. (Which is also known as Linoleic acid.) This is found in vegetable and seed fats.

Coconut fat is so much more than just a saturated fat

Coconut is a saturated fat that can contribute much to your health if used in moderation within your diet.
This saturated fat is particularly useful if you are vegan — who is concerned with your health.

Note: I recommend the equivalent of 1–2 Tbsp of coconut fat be used no more than 2–3x per week. (This should be your only source of coconut intake, as it is easy to go over-board consuming all the different coconut products now available.)

Coconut fat is good for you because:

It supports cardiovascular health
By supporting normal cholesterol levels

It’s an alternative fuel for the brain
Coconut fat gets converted into Ketone Bodies in the liver. These ketone bodies travel via the bloodstream to the brain. This provides an alternative fuel to run the brain on, rather than it relying solely on glucose.

It aids the immune system
Coconut fat contains Lauric acid and Capric acid. These acids, once converted in the body, help the immune system in multiple ways.

It increases general metabolism
The metabolism of the body is supported with a healthy temperature. Coconut fat possesses Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs). These chains of fat are utilised differently in the body to usual fats. They are quick to break down and be utilised by the body. MCTs induce thermogenesis, which is when fuel is burnt off as energy and heat rather than stored as fat.

It promotes healthy skin and hair
By acting as an antioxidant and by helping to keep the connective tissue strong and supple

Bad fats

Transfatty acids
These fats are also known as hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil.
You find these types of fats in ‘processed’ foods — such as pies, cakes and cookies. Trans-fats are polyunsaturated fats that have had hydrogen atoms injected into them to make them more stable at room temperature.

Deep-fried fats 
These include oils that have been heated to extreme levels & often reheated.

Note: These two types of oil are damaging as our body doesn’t recognise them, and therefore doesn’t know how to process them correctly.

Omega-6 — yes, this is in the good fats too!
Omega 6 fatty acids, when consumed in excessive amounts (especially when heated or hydrogenated) are considered bad for us as they create inflammation.

Omega-6 is a sly fat — and therefore should be constantly monitored
Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory, meaning that it creates inflammation in the body if not provided with healthy competition from ‘anti-inflammatory’ omega-3.
These two types of polyunsaturated fats require the same enzymes in the body to convert them to either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory substances. When you eat excessive amounts of omega-6, it will win hands-down —- effectively crowding out omega-3 from being fully incorporated into our body (our cell membranes). The excessive consumption of omega-6 is a leading cause of heart disease.

TAPS No: PP9933

By Lisa Fitzgibbon, Naturopath & Medical Herbalist

Lisa Fitzgibbon is a qualified (2006), experienced and registered Naturopath + Medical Herbalist. She draws on her professional training + experience, as well as her own personal experience to bring you realistic, holistic health advice. Lisa writes the popular health blog: www.lisasaid.so.

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