As oxymoronic as it sounds, there are actually good fats—the unsaturated kind that help fight the very diseases that consuming excess fat was said to cause. These unsaturated fats are divided into monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, and both types are thought to have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fats help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol while also boosting HDL (good) cholesterol.
Polyunsaturated fats are also thought to help lower total and bad cholesterol. But monounsaturated fats tend to be favoured over polyunsaturated fats because some research suggests that polyunsaturated fats are less stable, and can reduce levels of good cholesterol as well as bad. Polyunsaturated fats are often a good source of omega-3 fatty – acids, found mostly in cold-water fish, nuts, oils, and seeds, and also, in dark leafy greens, flaxseed oils and some vegetable oils.
One kind of omega-3 fatty acid is an”essential fatty- acid,” which cannot be manufactured by our bodies, so eating these foods is the only way to get them. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to lower blood pressure, combat LDL (bad) cholesterol, fight inflammation, and protect the brain and the nervous system.
Most cooking oils are made up primarily of unsaturated fats. When it comes to choosing cooking oils, each type of cooking oil varies in its ratio of monounsaturated to polyunsaturated fats. Two oils stand out for their high levels of monounsaturated fats: canola oil and olive oil. Other than non-stick cooking spray, these two oils should be in use.
At the end of the day, a good fat is still a fat in terms of calories.
Any labels on cooking oil that describe the oil as “light,” are referring to the taste or colour, not the fat or calorie content. All oils are 100 percent fat and are worth around 120 calories per tablespoon.
Although fats have received a bad reputation for causing weight gain, some fat is essential for survival.
About 25% – 35% of calories in our diet should come from fat.
- We need this amount of fat for:
- • Normal growth and development;
- • Energy (fat is the most concentrated source of energy);
- • Absorbing certain vitamins ( like vitamins A, D, E, K, and carotenoids);
- • Providing cushioning for the organs;
- • Maintaining cell membranes; and
- • Providing taste, consistency, and stability to foods
Fat is found
In meat, poultry, nuts, milk products, butters and margarines, oils, lard, fish, grain products, and salad dressings. There are three main types of fat, saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and trans fat. Saturated fat (found in foods like meat, butter, lard, and cream) and trans fat (found in baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, and margarines) have been shown to increase the risk for heart disease. Replacing saturated and trans fat in the diet with unsaturated fat (found in foods like olive oil, avocados, nuts, and canola oil) has been shown to decrease the risk of developing heart disease.
As well as being the most essential source of energy fats in the supply essential fatty acids and the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. The body needs fatty acids: linoleic acid and linolenic acid but it cannot manufacture them and cannot survive without them. These substances are important components of nerve cells, cellular membranes and hormones like substances called prostaglandins. These are also important in the transport, breakdown, and excretion of cholesterol. The fact is that there are healthy, necessary fats, as well as, the unhealthy fats, the consumption of which contributes towards degenerative disease.
Most of the fat in the diet is in the form of triglycerides, which are composed of one molecule of glycerol and three molecules of fatty acids. The characteristics of dietary fat are determined largely by the nature of the fatty acids.
Fatty acids may be saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated depending on the number of double bonds in the molecule. Eating low fat food doesn‘t mean we should give up fat entirely, but we do need to educate ourselves about which fats should ideally be avoided and which ones are more heart-healthy.
Let‘s be clear: we need fat in our diet. As the most concentrated source of calories (nine calories per gram of fat compared with four calories per gram for protein and carbohydrates), it helps supply energy. Fat provides linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid for growth, healthy skin and metabolism.
It also helps absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K). Fat adds flavour and is satisfying, making us feel fuller, keeping hunger at bay. Although all fats have the same amount of calories, some are more harmful than others: saturated fats and trans-fats in particular. Saturated Fats.
These fats are derived from animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs. But they are also found in some plant-based sources such as coconut, palm and palm kernel oils. These fats are solid at room temperature. Saturated fats clog our arteries and directly raise total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. We should avoid them, as much as possible.
Trans – Fats
Unlike other members of the fat family (saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats), trans – fats, or trans-fatty acids, are largely artificial fats. A small amount of trans – fats occur naturally in meat and dairy products.
Hydrogenation: Trans – fats are made by a chemical process called partial hydrogenation. Liquid vegetable oil (an otherwise healthy monounsaturated fat) is packed with hydrogen atoms and converted into a solid fat. This is seen an ideal fat for the food industry to work with because of its high melting point, its creamy, smooth texture and its reusability in deep-fat frying.
Shelf Life and Texture:
Partially hydrogenated fats or trans – fats, extend the shelf life of food. They also add a certain pleasing mouth-feel to all manner of processed foods. Think of buttery crackers and popcorn, crispy French fries, crunchy fish sticks, creamy frosting and melt-in-your mouth pies and pastries. All these foods owe those qualities to trans-fats.
Worse Than Butter:
Hydrogenated fats were seen as a healthier alternative to saturated fats: using stick margarine was deemed better than using butter, yet numerous studies now conclude that trans-fats are actually worse. True, saturated fats raise total and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels. Trans-fats do the same, but they also strip levels of good (HDL) cholesterol, the kind that helps unclog arteries. Trans-fats also increase triglyceride levels in the blood, adding to our risk of cardiovascular disease.
Basically, the more solid the fat, the more it clogs our arteries. Many margarines and spreads are now available with low or zero levels of trans fats, but they are less suitable for cooking and baking.
Monounsaturated Fats are liquid at room temperature but begin to solidify at cold temperatures. This type of fat is preferable to other types of fat and can be found in olives, olive oil, nuts, peanut oil, canola oil and avocados. Some studies have shown that these kinds of fats can actually lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and maintain HDL (good) cholesterol.
Polyunsaturated Fats are also liquid at room temperature. These are found in sunflower, sesame, corn, cottonseed, and soybean oils. This type of fat has also been shown to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, but too much can also lower the HDL cholesterol.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These include an essential fatty acid, which means it’s critical for our health but cannot be manufactured by our bodies. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fish, flax seed, soy, and walnuts. These fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and also boost our immune systems. As our bodies don’t produce these naturally, so we need to get them from our diet or via supplements. ⠀⠀
There are three types of Omega 3 fatty acids – ALA, EPA and DHA
ALA found in plant foods and DHA & EPA both found in oily fish. Omega-3 fats are needed for normal development of your baby’s brain and eyes, with oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and tuna all fantastically rich sources of long-chain omega-3 Fats ( DHA and EPA)
For those of you that don’t or won’t eat fish, you can find short chain omega 3 fats in seeds such as flax and chia, walnuts and walnut oil and good quality vegetable oils such as rapeseed and flax.
Although the above are not the long-chain versions like DHA that you find in oily fish fear not, thankfully you can get your hands on Algae-based omega-3 DHA supplements which are suitable for vegetarians although during pregnancy it’s absolutely crucial to look for a supplement aimed at pregnancy or make sure you check that any supplements you are taking do not contain vitamin A and are suitable for pregnancy.
Choose one that provides a minimum of 300 mg of DHA and make sure it’s Omega 3 fish oil and NOT cod liver oil.
So, let’s discuss why DHA is so important. It is important because it takes part in a lot of activities.
- DHA is crucial for the proper development of the human cortex, which is the part of the brain that aids in thinking. This fatty acid also regulates the neural circuity, which in turn helps in various activities such as attention, problem solving, abstract thinking and decision making.
- DHA plays a crucial role in the synthesis of myelin, a substance responsible for insulation of the brain circuitry. The blood / brain barrier which is the natural protection in the body that keeps the nervous system safe from pathogens, infections and other harmful substances, all of which need DHA to function properly.
- DHA is an essential compound for the brain development occurring in the nervous system of the child during the first two years of life. In its absence, irreversible brain damage can or may occur.
- Inside the human body, DHA converts into alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega 3 acid which is crucial for several activities in the body.
There are several reasons for needing omega 3 to fuel your body.
Eye Health – DHA a type of omega is one of the major constituents of the retina of your eye and not getting enough DHA may lead to vision problems. on the contrary getting enough omega 3 fatty acid can reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a leading cause of permanent eye damage and blindness across the world.
Brain Health – omega 3 fatty acids are important for the brain growth infants and around 40% of polyunsaturated fatty acids found in the brain are DHA in nature, therefore it’s no surprise that infants who are fed a DHA fortified formula often have better cognitive development.
Supplementing with omega 3s during pregnancy is also linked to several benefits for our baby such as
- Higher intelligence
- Fewer behavioural problems
- Better communication skills
- Decreased risk of ADHD autism and cerebral palsy
- Decreased risk of developmental delay.
- Heart Health – Consuming enough omega 3s can affect the health of your heart in a positive way, some of these benefits are mentioned below
*Reduction in bloody triglyceride level
*Reduction in blood pressure in hypertensive people
*Prevention of clumping of platelets together
*Prevention of plaques and hardening of arteries
*Reduction in inflammation
*Management of metabolic syndrome
Is an umbrella term used to describe several conditions including obesity, insulin resistance low HDL cholesterol levels, high triglycerides and hypertension. Consuming enough omega 3 can improve insulin resistance, control inflammation and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Maintaining the omega 3 to omega 6 ratio – of all the different types of fatty acids are extremely important for the human body. Both LA linoleic acid a type of omega 6 and ALA alpha linolenic acid ALA a type of omega 3 fatty acid are both crucial.
It is important to maintain a balance between these two fatty acids as any disturbance can lead to health consequences which can include inflammatory disease and cardiovascular risks. Before the industrialisation of food in the last century scientists estimate that the ratio between 3 and 6 was 1:1 and 4:1:2 where it is now about 10:1 and 20.1.2
To ensure you get a good balance between the two eat good sources of LA in your daily diet such as ground linseed, chia, walnut and hemp and consume about 1 tbsp a day.
Omega 3 requirements – recommend consuming at least 250-500mg of both EPA and DHA combined a day.
The only way to ensure you are getting enough DHA and EPA on a vegan diet is through supplements. Vegan supplements get their DHA and EPA from microalgae which is why the fish and fish oils are the main sources on a non-vegan diet. So vegan DHA and EPA supplements cut out the middleman and derive these fatty acids straight from the microalgae.
Ensure you include as many of the following in your diet daily
The body is unable to produce DHA on its own
Therefore it needs be taken from external sources such as fish and fish oils. Microalgae is the only plant-based substance that naturally contains DHA and is present in the market in the form of supplements. Considering the points above, you may conclude that a vegan diet might not be the best option for the health of babies and children. In cases where they absolutely need to follow it, it must be ensured that they get adequate compensation for it, under close medical supervision. In case of following an alternative or using a supplement, please always seek medical advice to prevent any serious damage that is impossible or difficult to reverse