Feeling rather confused about all that is written about fats and whether they are good or bad? One of the first things that is helpful to learn is the difference between healthy butter
and unhealthy margarine
as there is a tendency for saturated fats and trans fats to be lumped together as one big NO NO.
So what is the difference?
Saturated Fats are good fats
Saturated fats come from animal meat, dairy products and tropical plants such as coconuts. They are usually solid at room temperature and sufficiently stable so that they do not easily become rancid. Saturated fats have the following benefits:
- They give our cells their essential stiffness and integrity
- They play an important role in our bone health helping to incorporate calcium and absorb vitamins
- They lower lipoprotein to help protect against heart disease and strokes
- They help to support a healthy brain, lungs and kidneys
- They help to protect the liver from alcohol and other toxins such as sugar
- They boost and strengthen our immune system
- They help to retain essential fatty acids in our system
- They are best to cook with because they resist heat better than polyunsaturated oils like canola which in turn means less free radicals and less carcinogenic byproducts.
Saturated fats and good fats include
- Raw butter, milk, yogurt and cheese or at least these dairy products should be full cream and come from grass fed cows.
- Raw nuts and seeds by the handful for heart healthy fat, high energy, powerful minerals and the source of vitamins.
- Organic virgin coconut oil to use in baking, as a spread or just by the spoonful.
- Olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, hempseed oil, grapeseed oil for dressings and other culinary uses.
- Organic flaxseed oil.
- High quality fish oil.
- Wild and sustainable oily fish.
Trans fats are bad fats
I cannot list any health benefits for trans fats because there are none!
Trans fats are often referred to as hydrogenated
or partially hydrogenated
oils and if you see this on the label, avoid. Trans fats (including margarine and other butter substitutes) are produced when vegetable oils are heated under pressure with hydrogen (and a catalyst) in a process called hydrogenation. Trans fats are frequently found in processed foods such as baked goods, icing, margarine, snacks, cookies and crackers and various fried foods.
No good health benefits but trans fats have plenty of adverse effects
- They lower good cholesterol while raising bad cholesterol
- They raise the atherogenic lipoprotein (a) levels to increase blockages in the arteries
- They lower the amount of cream in milk from lactating females in all species
- They increase blood insulin levels
- They increase insulin resistance
- They weaken the immune system
- They lower levels of testerone in males
- They cause alterations in our cell membranes as well as fat cell size, cell number and fatty acid composition
Be wary of products that are advertised as low fat
or no fat
. This is because in most cases when fat is reduced or eliminated, it is replaced with refined sugars, chemical “fat” substitutes and/or artificial sweeteners. When fat is responsible for much of the taste and you take that away, the taste is less appealing so something has to be put in its place to add taste back again. So all the time people have been going for the low fat or non fat option, they have been putting themselves more at risk from heart disease, strokes, obesity and diabetes.
As more and more people become aware of this, the food manufacturers are changing their labeling to “no trans fats”.