In the previous blog, 4 Reasons to Eat Fat, we talked about the negative perceptions of fat, and yet the necessity of it. So necessary, in fact, that we covered four reasons to eat quality fat. As we have said about other macros in previous blogs, not all fat is created equal. In this blog, we will cover the various types of fat, their composition, and their contribution.
What is fat?
When we talk about fat, we are referring to fatty acids. Fatty acids are chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms attached to our carboxyl group. Every fatty acid, whether plant or animal, is made up of these same raw materials. For decades, health experts believed fat was unhealthy. After all, eating fat makes you fat, right? Not quite.
What does fat do?
In previous years, our doctor might have recommended that we limit or avoid fat in our diet to prevent weight gain and health problems like heart disease and diabetes. Now, doctors know that all fats are not bad. In fact, some fats lower your cholesterol level and help keep you healthy. Some studies suggest fats, containing CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), boost fat burn, reduce heart disease and possibly even cancer. A few more benefits of healthy fats include…
- Boost cognition
- Provide steady energy
- Help the body absorb necessary vitamins
- Protect the organs
- Warm the body
- Build cells
- Produce hormones that help the body perform properly
The key is to get a good balance of fats and other nutrients in your diet. Eat the healthiest kinds of fats, in the right amounts.
What are the types of fat?
In the natural world, there are three types of fat. When I say natural world, I simply mean what we find in nature, were we not to mess with it. The three types of fat are saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.
Saturated fat has every link in the fatty acid chain secured and is “saturated” with hydrogen atoms. These include:
- Red meat — beef, lamb, pork
- Skin-on chicken and other poultry
- Whole-milk dairy products like milk, cheese, and ice cream
- Palm and coconut oils
Unsaturated fats are missing hydrogen atoms; thus, they have unsecured links. Mono-unsaturated has only one link in the fatty acid chain unsecured, thereby missing one hydrogen atom. These include:
Poly…well, you get it. Because saturated fat is complete with hydrogen atoms, it is solid or waxy at room temperature. The fewer the hydrogen atoms, the more liquid (less viscosity) the fat at room temperature.
Most of the fats we consume are a blend of the three types. As with other macros, we refer to fat by its dominant property. So, a saturated fat food means the dominant type of fat contained therein is saturated.
Example: A grass-fed steak contains some saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat, but is generally referred to as a saturated fat food. Interestingly, because conventional beef has a diet that consists of grain and corn-based supplements, grass-fed beef boasts of several benefits including:
- Less total fat
- More heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
- Greater CLA (conjugated linoleic acid)
- Increased antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin E
Which one is better?
The answer is…yes. The truth is all three of these contain tremendous benefits for the body. To eliminate one category or prioritize one over the other would simply limit our bodies from the benefits of the under prioritized. The key is to know the benefits and to get a good balance of fats and other nutrients in your diet.
Today, we covered the various types of fat, their composition, and their contribution. Unfortunately, we did not have the time to cover trans-fat. In the next blog, we will cover trans-fats, Margarine, vegetable oils, and how they tell such an interesting story. You will not want to miss it!
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