Two months into 2021 and many of us may be waffling (yum!) on our dedication to our resolutions to eat healthy. One of the most challenging aspects of a healthy diet is having healthy fat in your diet.
There is a lot of confusion between “dietary fat” and “body fat”, which suggests that dietary fat is the cause of weight gain. However, fats are essential for the proper functioning of our body and have a limited role in weight gain when they are of quality. But not all fats are created equal: you have to know how to choose those that are good for you!
Run away from foods that contain Trans Fat
What are they? The vast majority of trans fatty acids in our diet are obtained through an industrial process such as hydrogenation of unsaturated fatty acids. Hydrogenation is a chemical reaction that involves adding molecules of hydrogen to the initial compound. This process changes the molecular structure of saturated fatty acids, giving them a firmer texture and increasing their shelf life.
Where do we find them? Trans fatty acids are present in many industrial products that have undergone a process such as solidifying vegetable fats: ready meals, chips, industrial pastries and cookies, pie crusts, certain margarines, quiches, pizzas, aperitif cookies, spreads, cereal bars, etc. Be aware of food nutrition labels and avoid processed foods with unnatural ingredients.
Is it good or not? Trans fatty acids should be avoided, and more importantly we do not need trans fatty acids. They can have harmful consequences on our health, even when consumed in small quantities: they considerably increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and increase inflammation.
Should you limit Saturated Fats?
What are they? Are they good or not?
These are fats that are solid at room temperature and resist heat well, and differ from unsaturated fatty acids (see section below) that are liquid at room temperature. In our body they also act differently. Our cell membranes, for example, are mostly composed of lipid (fat) and a membrane composed of saturated fat compared to unsaturated will be more rigid and compact, less fluid and less permeable. Saturated fat is able to pack together very tightly. When these tightly packed saturated fatty acids enter the bloodstream, they increase levels of “bad” cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and clog arteries.
About two-thirds of the brain is composed of fat. Fat is essential for brain development and maintenance. Membrane fluidity is absolutely essential for the optimal function of most cells in the body, but it is especially important for nerve cells. In addition to letting in essential nutrients, it keeps out harmful substances, and functions like communicators between cells. Thus the importance of eating healthy fat to have better permeability of essential nutrients into our cells.
However, saturated fats are essential for our body: they provide it with energy and play a role in the formation of the membranes of our cells. But do not consume excess amounts of saturated fat on a regular basis, studies show it can increase cardiovascular risk. Nutritional studies show that the average North American eats three times as much saturated fat as unsaturated fat!
Where do we find them?
Saturated fatty acids are present in fats:
- Animal (butter, cream, cheese, fatty meats, dairy etc.)
- Vegetables (palm oil, coconut oil, etc.)
- Processed food (cookies such as crisps, etc.)
The long awaited, healthy fat, unsaturated fatty acids.. But which one?
|Omega 3||Omega 6||Omega 9|
|Essential fatty acids (your body can’t make.)||ALA, EPA, DHA||LA, GLA|
|We eat||Not enough (=<30%)||Too much||Generally enough|
|Good for||Reproduction, immune defenses, brain development, lower inflammation.||Brain development, muscles and bones. They are also essential in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease but also increasing the risk.||Diabetes prevention and cardiovascular disease.|
|What to do||Increase||Eat some but decrease especially if not enough omega 3||Omega-9 fats are nonessential fats that the body can produce. But replacing some saturated fats with omega-9 fats will benefit your health|
|Foods vegetable||flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seed, walnuts and algae||Nuts or certain oils (evening primrose oil, borage oil sunflower, hemp, grape seeds, soybeans, corn, cotton.)||Olive oil, hazelnut oil, avocado, hazelnuts, almonds.|
|Foods animal||Tuna *, Salmon *, Sardines, mackerel, Herring, Anchovies
*try to limit big fish because of mercury accumulation
|Meat, eggs, butter, cheese, *It is also found in quantity in many processed products (sweet cookies, crisps, ready meals, etc.).||Animal fats (meat, cheese, butter)|
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Balance Omega 3/6
We should be consuming a maximum of 5 times more Omega-6 than Omega-3. But in general, we consume 10 to 15 times more. Excessive consumption of Omega-6s harms the metabolism of Omega-3s: they compete with each other and Omega-3s cannot therefore play their role properly. This imbalance then contributes to the development of cardiovascular diseases.
In your kitchen
- To dress salad, make your homemade dressing: olive oil, vinegar balsamic, mustard or lemon will do if you have no time.
- Sprinkle lemon juice, olive oil and herbs/spices on cooked vegetables instead of using cheese, butter, or cream-based sauces.
- Consume 2 tablespoons of cold pressed rapeseed or walnut oil every day, as a vinaigrette or as a seasoning on your food.
- Eat a handful of nuts and almonds every day for breakfast or as a snack.
- Reduce your consumption of fatty meats to a maximum of once a week (fatty cuts of beef, pork, mutton, cold cuts other than ham, poultry skin) by limiting products from intensively farmed animals.
- Reduce your intake of dairy fats (cheese, butter, cream, etc.), and eat them preferably with breakfast or lunch. Choose yogurt like plain, unflavored yogurt containing probiotics.
- Use gentle heat or don’t heat at all to protect Omega-3s and Omega-6s from oxidation.
- Avoid processed products, especially when they contain “partially hydrogenated fat”
- Good source of fat:
- Nuts (walnuts)
- Seeds (Flaxseed, chia, hemp…)
- Aceite (canola, olive, flaxseed, avocado…)
- Good source of fat animal:
*try to limit big fish because of mercury
Article written by Alma Roblin, M.Sc. Biotech Engineering, Lead Scientist in Nutrition at 1health
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