Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Fat Facts for a Healthy Diet

We must have some fats in our diet.

Role of Fat in Healthy Diets
  • Provides a concentrated source of energy

  • Provides the building blocks for cell membranes, hormones and hormone like substances

  • Slows down nutrient absorption - we can go longer without feeling hungry.

  • Act as carriers for the fat soluble vitamins A,D,E and K

  • Aids in converting carotene to Vitamin A

  • Assists in absorption of minerals

Different Types of Fats


  • Highly stable
  • Do not normally go rancid
  • Solid or semi solid at room temperature
  • Found in animal fats or tropical oils
  • Your body makes them from carbohydrates


  • Your body makes them out of saturated fatty acids
  • Liquid at room temperature
  • Relatively stable - do not go rancid easily
  • Most common type in our food is oleic acid
  • Found in olive oil, and oils from almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts and avocados

Polyunsaturated - Two Types

  • Omega 6 - linoleic acid
  • Omega 3 - linolenic acid
  • Called essential as your body cannot make them
  • Must obtain essential fatty acids (EFA) from food
  • Liquid even when refrigerated
  • Highly reactive
  • Go rancid easily
  • Never heat or use in cooking

Fatty acids are also classified according to their length. That is how many carbon atoms they have.

Short Chain

  • Always saturated
  • Found in butterfat
  • Have antimicrobial properties - protect us from viruses, yeasts and bacteria in the gut
  • Absorbed quickly for quick energy
  • Contribute to health of the immune system

Medium Chain Fatty Acids

  • Found in butterfat and tropical oils eg coconut oil
  • Have antimicrobial properties
  • Absorbed directly for quick energy so unlikely to cause weight gain
  • Contribute to health of immune system

Long Chain Fatty Acids

  • Can be either saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated
  • Many different types
  • Oleic acid in olive oil
  • Palmitoleic acid - in animal fats - strong antimicrobial properties
  • The two EFA's are long chain fatty acids
  • GLA found in evening primrose oil - used to produce prostaglandins which regulate many processes at the cellular level

Very Long Chain Fatty Acids

  • Highly unsaturated
  • Some, but not all people, can make them out of EFA's. Others must get them from food.
  • Organ meats, egg yolks, butter, fish oils
  • Used in body to produce prostaglandins
  • Important roles in function of the nervous system

That is a lot of different types of fats. They all have important roles to play in our health. It is good to eat a balance of all of the different types of fats.

Be aware that many oils sold in our supermarkets have been processed by extreme heat and solvents. This damages the fatty acids. Use expeller expressed, unrefined oils or extra virgin olive oil. Store these in the refrigerator. Virgin coconut oil is an excellent addition to a healthy diet and can be stored at room temperature as it is very stable.

There is much more that could be said about fats, enough for now to know a little about the different types and why we need to eat them.

Enjoy your food


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