Many people believe that fats make them fat, and yet do not realize that they eat foods with a tremendous amount of hidden fat. The truth is that while some fats are essential to our health, others can be very destructive. If we get the right kinds of fats in the right amounts and balances, they can help keep us healthy.
Fats to Avoid
Let’s first take a look at the fats to avoid.
Saturated fats primarily come from animal sources such as meat and dairy products and are normally solid at room temperature. They have been implicated in many serious health problems, including heart disorders, and hardening of the arteries. A high intake of saturated fats has been shown to elevate serum cholesterol and to contribute to heart disease. They also slow the liver’s ability to remove artery-clogging LDL from the blood. Some examples of foods where you find saturated fats are bacon, beef, palm kernel oil, palm oil, and butter. Although coconut oil does contain saturated fat, it is easily digestible and converted into quick energy.
Trans-fats are found in most margarines and solid vegetable shortening because they have undergone a high heat process called hydrogenation. This process chemically alters oils by bombarding their molecules with hydrogen atoms that actually saturate the unsaturated fats. These resulting fats are called trans-fats. The sad news is that these fats destroy our essential fatty acids. Most foods on supermarket shelves contain these trans-fats to prolong shelf life. Be mindful and read labels to make sure you stay away from these fats. An example where you may see a lot of these fats are in crackers and other snacks.
Fats You Need
Omega 3 EFA or Essential Fatty Acids
All fats are composed of building blocks called fatty acids. The ones that our bodies cannot make and that we need to obtain from outside sources are called essential fatty acids. Deficiencies of these EFA are common today due to poor diets combined with excessive alcohol consumption and over consumption of processed vegetable oils.
There are three different types of omega 3 fatty acids.
ALA, alpha -linolenic acid promotes brain and eye development, is good for arthritis, helps to prevent abnormal heart rhythms, improves immune function, and reduces blood clotting.
The two other common omega-3 fatty acids are DHA and EPA. Cold water marine fish are the richest source of these of EPA and DHA. They have a wide array of health benefits including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, vision loss, Parkinson’s disease, lupus, Crohn, s osteoporosis, obesity and some forms of cancers.
How Much Should You Consume
For natural sources of ALA, the highest amount is found in flaxseed. Hemp and walnut oils are good options as well as chia seeds. A tablespoon a day is generally recommended.
Official recommendations for EPA and DHA are controversial, but a general thought is that we should aim for an average of 500 mg per day from fish oils. As it is difficult to know the source of our mackerel, herring, salmon and anchovy, which are the cold-water fish recommended, I would suggest that you look for a supplement that has a high amount of the EPA and DHA to avoid taking several pills.