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There are many different types of fats and it can be confusing to remember which ones are good and which fats are bad. In the past we were told ALL dietary fat was bad for us because it would increase our cholesterol levels putting our arteries at risk for clot formation resulting in heart disease. Cholesterol and Omega 6 and 3 make up our cell membranes and are all needed to make specific compounds: like hormones, inflammation and anti-inflammatory chemicals.
Fats are simply classified by the number of carbon and hydrogen atoms they have. A saturated fat means the carbons are saturated with hydrogen bond to them. Unsaturated means there is less hydrogen because another bond has occurred with carbon instead of hydrogen; this creates a double bond. A fat with one double bond is called a mono (one) unsaturated fat and if there is more than one bond it is called poly (more than one) unsaturated fat.
Saturated fats are found in meats and dairy products and were said to be the unhealthiest because they could drive up cholesterol levels. This was once considered to be a major risk factor for heart disease which was the start of the low to no fat diet craze. There is a greater understanding about cholesterol's role in heart disease now. It is actually more about the particle size of cholesterol and not the total amount that is the risk factor, so dietary saturated fats are no longer so demonized. That said some people can have genetic reasons for storing more cholesterol so they would need to watch their saturated fat intake.
Monounsaturated fats are found in olives, avocados and their oils. These are considered healthy fats and are part of the Heart Healthy Mediterranean diet.
Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils like corn, soybean, canola and safflower. While these vegetable oils are not per se unhealthy; they are typically highly processed and often come from genetically modified seeds and crops that are sprayed with the pesticide, Roundup. Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats are found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines. Omega 6 is used by the cell to make inflammation and Omega 3 is used to make anti-inflammatory chemicals.
Some fats are labelled as long chain, medium and short chain fats. Coconut oil is referred to as a medium chain fat (or triglyceride – MCT oil) defined by the number of carbon atoms. Since it is easily absorbed and utilized by the brain, it is considered a healthy saturated fat.
Always eat high quality fats and make sure they are not rancid. Polyunsaturated fats have many double bonds in their structure which can be easily oxidized, meaning damaged. This is why it is recommended to keep liquid oils well sealed and in dark locations. Saturated fats do not have double bonds so they are less at risk of oxidizing or going rancid.
Trans fats can occur naturally but they are typically manufactured by the food industry to transform polyunsaturated liquid oils into a more solid and shelf-stable form of fat. They are found in margarine and shortening that is typically used in baked goods and fried food. Avoid trans fats and any oils that have been “hydrogenated” as that means the fat has been altered by the addition of hydrogen atoms. An alteration of these fats makes them unrecognizable by our immune system so they will produce an inflammatory reaction.
We need dietary fat for our brains, to insulate our nerves and it helps us absorb our fat soluble vitamins. In addition, every cell has a cell membrane made of fat. We need to eat a diversity of different fats for all their benefits. However, do watch the amount of saturated fat and vegetable fats that have been genetically modified like canola, soybean and corn oils that cause other health concerns.
For sure, do not eat trans fats – limit or better yet remove processed foods: packaged baked good, microwave popcorn and foods fried in trans fats.
Understand the difference between dietary oils. Take a look in your cupboards and remove unhealthy oils. Check out the guide to Cooking with Fats and Oils. Take it with you when you go shopping and purchase some different oils. Remember, go for quality - cheap may not be a healthy bargain. Read labels, sometimes a bottle of olive oil may not be pure olive oil. https://globalnews.ca/news/4979292/consumers-warned-fake-olive-oil/
An excellent option is to make your make your own ghee. A butter alternative that has the inflammatory casein protein removed. Choose butter made from grass fed cows because the butter will include a healthy fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
This is the recipe and chef I follow to make my ghee:
Otherwise I buy Nanak Grass Fed Ghee.
Incorporate a diversity of quality fats in to your diet. In addition, you can improve your anti-inflammatory capacity by taking Omega 3 supplements.
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