Many people try to banish fats from their diets for fear of weight gain and other related health risks such as cholesterol build-up. However, not all fats are bad for you. in fact, our bodies need fats to function well and of which we should be careful in their choosing.
Choosing the wrong types of fats or food sources can expose your body to many health risks while choosing the right types of fats or fat food sources can save your body.
What are fats?
According to Wikipedia, ”In nutrition, biology, and chemistry, fat usually means any ester of fatty acids or a mixture of such compounds; most commonly those that occur in living beings or in food.”
Unused blood glucose after carbs are broken down is stored as reserve energy in the form of fats. This is the way too many calories that aren’t fully burned by the body end up as fat and can cause weight gain.
Fats are categorized as healthy fats and unhealthy fats by diet experts. Healthy fats are recommended as they have a lot of health benefits while unhealthy fats are discouraged as they pose health risks to the body.
What is a healthy fat?
Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are the types of fats that are known as good or healthy fats as they have a lot of health benefits. Let’s break them down in details,
Types of healthy fats.
Monosaturated fats: these are a type of unsaturated fats. They are fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule. There are many different types of monosaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) with oleic acid being the most common type comprising around 90% of the healthy fats found in a diet.
Other monosaturated fatty acids include palmitoleic acid and vaccenic acid.
Monosaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but can turn solid when chilled.
There are a lot of health benefits associated with monosaturated fats such as reducing bad cholesterol, lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke. Monosaturated fats also help in weight loss, and decreasing inflammation.
Common examples of monosaturated food sources include olive oil, canola oil, avocado, saffle oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, and others.
Polyunsaturated fats: These are a type of healthy fats that include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These types of fats are got from animal and plant foods such as fatty fish, vegetable oils, some nuts, and seeds.
Health benefits associated with polyunsaturated fats include control of blood sugar, reduced risk of diabetes, lowering of blood sugar, slow the buildup of plaque in the arteries, and a reduced risk of arrhythmia.
Examples of healthy fat food sources.
Extra virgin olive oil.
Olive oil is a great source of healthy fats most especially extra virgin olive oil.
The antioxidants in olive oil have powerful health benefits such as reducing the risk of heart disease, fighting inflammation, and improving cholesterol levels.
The reason extra virgin oil is one of the best healthy fat sources is the fact that it’s extracted using natural methods that don’t involve chemicals. In extra virgin oil, 14% is saturated fats, monosaturated fats take up 73% (oleic acid, same as that found in avocados) and the rest is Vitamin E 13%, and vitamin K which is about 7 %.
Avocados are very nutritious with a unique composition compared to other fruits. In avocados are carbs and a lot of healthy fats. In fact, the fat content in avocados is around 77% by calories making avocados have more healthy fats than most animal foods.
The fats present in avocados are monosaturated fats called oleic acid and this is a type of fat that is also found in olive oil.
These fats are healthy and provide many health benefits to the body.
Coconuts and coconut oil have about 90% saturated fat.
Fats found in coconuts differ from most fats as these are largely made up of medium-chain fatty acids. These kinds of fats go straight to the liver where they are turned into ketone bodies.
Medium-chain fats can help suppress appetite making people eat less food thus fewer calories consumed. Additionally, they can boost metabolism by up to 120 calories per day. This is the reason why coconut and count oil are great for weight loss.
Cheese is a dairy product made out of milk and the nutrition and taste depend on the type of milk used in the making.
Conjugated linoleic acid is the type of fats found in cheese with health benefits such as aiding weight loss, preventing obesity, heart disease, and reduction of inflammation.
Additionally, cheese is also rich in vitamins (A, B-12), zinc, phosphorous, and riboflavin which contribute to many health benefits.
Dark chocolate is healthy food and a great source of healthy fats. In dark chocolate are huge amounts of oleic acid a healthy type of monosaturated fat that is also found in olive oil and avocados. Other forms of fats found in dark chocolate are stearic and palmitic acids which are forms of saturated fat.
With 11% fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients such as iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese, dark chocolate can lower blood pressure and protect you against bad cholesterol. You are less likely to die from heart disease if you eat dark chocolate 5 or more times in a week according to research.
Herring, tuna, mackerel, trout, and anchovies are some of the sources of healthy fats. These are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, and other important nutrients.
Omega-3 fatty acids promote heart health, reducing inflammation, aiding weight loss, improving eye health, and weight loss among others.
If you aren’t eating fatty fish, then the use of fish oil supplements is a great alternative to getting healthy fats.
To read more on the health benefits of fatty fish and fish oil, read an article from Knit spice: What is the Potential fish oil benefits according to nutritionists?
Eating nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts can get you healthy as these are rich in healthy fats and other nutrients such as fiber, proteins, vitamin E, and magnesium.
In nuts are unsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that are linked to improving heart health, lowering the levels of inflammation, improving the lining of arteries, and many other benefits.
In the list of healthy fats sources, you will find chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds.
These are rich in monosaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, fiber, and other nutrients that contribute to a lot of health benefits.
Generally, seeds are excellent sources of healthy fats but have got different percentages and compositions of healthy fats. The healthy fats present in seeds contribute to lowering cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of certain cancer and diseases,
Which fat is good for weight loss?
In the pursuit of weight loss, everything that aids weight loss is a brick you should use to build your weight loss plan or strategy.
As seen above, not all fats are healthy and this brings us to a question. Which types of fats or fat food sources will help you lose weight?
Generally speaking, choosing healthy fats over unhealthy fats is an obvious way of losing weight.
Fats are filling and can take a longer time to be digested compared to carbs. They are also satisfying meaning that with a small portion, you can stay satisfied for longer helping you overcome cravings.
Additionally, healthy fat sources such as nuts and seeds have got fiber in them. Fiber is linked to weight loss because it keeps you satisfied longer which helps to fight cravings and you will probably eat less on your next meal thus fewer calories consumed for weight loss.
Other healthy fat sources such as fatty fish, yogurt, and whole eggs are rich in proteins that are linked to a lot of weight loss potential.
Therefore, it’s not necessarily about the type of fats you choose, much as you may choose healthy fat food sources, focus on the other nutrients such as fiber and proteins in the food sources. Fiber and proteins will play a big role in weight loss when combined with healthy fats.
Some nuts and seeds are rich in both fiber and proteins which makes them great weight loss healthy fat food sources.
What are the unhealthy fats?
There are two main types of unhealthy fat types that nutrition experts advise us to eliminate or eat in moderation.
Trans fats: These are forms of unsaturated fats and come in both natural and artificial forms.
Natural trans fats occur in meat and dairy ruminant animals such as cows, sheep, and goats. Natural trans fats take up 2-6% of the fat in dairy products and about 3-9% in cuts of beef and lamb. Moderate intake of natural trans fats isn’t harmful according to research.
Artificial trans fats are also known as industrial trans fats or partially hydrogenated fats. Artificial trans fats pose health risks and consequences. These types of fats increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Trans fats are also linked to excess inflammation and chronic diseases such as metabolic syndrome and arthritis.
Harmful trans fats can be found in certain vegetable oils, certain margarine, fried fast foods, pastries, pizza, sweet pies, canned frosting, meat pies, sausage rolls, and crackers.
Saturated fats: There are different types of saturated fats depending on the carbon chain length. The saturated fats that are listed as unhealthy are in most cases grouped with trans fats.
There a lot of health risks associated with saturated fats such as heart disease. This is the reason many health experts recommend minimum consumption of saturated fats or replacing highly processed vegetables such as canola oil with healthy oils such as extra virgin oil that hasn’t been highly processed.
Choosing healthy vegetable oils that haven’t been highly processed can help reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and can promote overall health.
Many foods such as pizzas, baked foods, and fried foods have a lot of saturated fats especially when they are prepared with highly processed vegetable oils to have huge amounts of unhealthy saturated fats.
Benefits of healthy fat
There are a lot of health benefits associated with good or healthy fats.
- There is a lot of weight loss potential associated with healthy fats.
- Healthy fats lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- The lower bad cholesterol levels at the same time increasing good cholesterol levels.
- Eating healthy fat foods can help prevent abnormal heart rhythms.
- They lower triglycerides associated with heart disease and fight inflammation.
- Healthy fats can lower high blood pressure.
- Healthy fats help prevent plaque buildup and narrowing of the arteries.
What happens if you eat too little fat?
Eating little fats depends on the types of fats you are eating.
Eating less unhealthy fats will help improve your overall health. Minimizing or restricting trans fats and saturated fats can help improve general health and wellbeing. You will be less likely to have heart disease and related diseases that may be caused by overconsumption of unhealthy fats.
However, getting less healthy fats can cause a deficiency of some important nutrients needed by the body to function properly. You will likely experience;
- Heart problems since the body will lack nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids that are linked to heart health.
- Vitamin deficiencies will occur when you consume very little healthy fats. You will have deficiencies of vitamins such as A, D, E, and K. There are a lot of health risks associated with these deficiencies such as dry, scaly, flaky, dull, and unhealthy skin, you might have brittle or lackluster hairs, Soft, splitting, and brittle fingernails, night blindness and fatty food cravings.
- Poor brain health and mood problems will also be experienced when you consume less fat. This is due to the fact that the brain requires nutrients and fats to function properly. You will likely have depression and frequent mood swings which are all linked to a deficiency of omega-3.
The bottom line.
Choosing healthy fats over unhealthy fats is key to healthy living. Guess you will not always have a long list of foods to avoid and those to eat to get the right fats. Here is a simple break down.
It is simple, seeds and nuts have got healthy fats while most processed and fried foods have got unhealthy fats.
In oils, extra virgin oil has got healthy fats while most vegetable oils that are highly processed have got unhealthy fats.
Fatty fish and fish oil supplements are great sources of healthy fats too, eat them more often.