Do you know the truth about fats - are they as bad as we've been told? With so much biased and incomplete information it seems impossible to have a clear idea about what kind of fats to consume for optimal health.
In this post we are going to see what the scientific evidence says about fats, banishing myths and fears so that you can finally make good choices in your diet.
What is fat?
Fats are the most caloric component of our diet.
Within fats we will see that there are different types with very different consequences for our health. Thus we will clearly identify the fats that are essential to ensure good health from those that must be avoided at all costs to maintain it.
Our body already has enough work to do fighting the natural process of cell damage. The consumption of unhealthy fats only increases the oxidative process and the work our body has to do to fight it.. Therefore, the best option to improve our health is to avoid the consumption of unhealthy fats.
That is why it is important that before we say whether fat is good or bad, we know which fat we are talking about, otherwise both answers will be incorrect.
Fat is essential to complete basic and daily functions of our organism such as:
- The construction of cells and all cell membranes in our body are composed of fat,
- the nervous system,
- the formation of hormones that regulate everything from metabolism to circulation,
- the absorption of the vitamins A, D, E, and K
- the immune system
- our brain
Types of fat and foods
Our body is able to regulate the level of saturated fat according to its needs and the amount we ingest.
It is directly related to cholesterol.
They are ideal for cooking with them because they are stable. They respond to heat without significant alterations and do not release toxins.
Origin of saturated fats: quality matters, always. In this case, the best source of saturated fat is from free-range animals and their by-products: fatty meats, butter, dairy products, eggs... also foods of plant origin, such as coconut oil.
The problem is that most of the saturated fats we consume today do not come from natural sources but from ultra-processed foods.
At the same time, they are subdivided into two large groups.
They are abundant in foods of vegetable origin, such as olive oil, avocado and almonds.
They are considered beneficial to health
They are classified as follows:
- Omega 3They come from the animal world. They are considered beneficial to health.
- Omega 6: come from the vegetable world. They are vegetable oils that oxidize easily. They are very cheap and although they are not stable for cooking with them, they are very common in kitchens and processed food. Not beneficial to health. Its consumption does not help to maintain a correct balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6.
Optimal Omegas Ratio
The human body is capable of producing all the fatty acids it needs, with the exception of:
- Linoleic acid (LA), an omega-6 fatty acid. It plays a very important role in the cell structure, protection and regulation.
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid. It intervenes in the process of regulating and reducing inflammation. There are studies that relate the omega-3 fatty acids with protection against heart disease as they have anti-inflammatory effects, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
Hence, they are called "essential fatty acids"because have to be consumed through the diet..
Sources of omega-3:
- Fish and seafood: especially oily fish such as salmon, tuna, anchovies, sardines...
- Flaxseeds, chia, pumpkin, hemp...
- Nuts such as hazelnuts, walnuts...
- Green leafy vegetables
Mainly vegetable oils, which are the basis of processed products: margarines, cookies, vegetable milks, frozen food, pizzas...
In the human body, LA and ALA "compete" against each other, and this means that an excess of one will inhibit the synthesis of the other.. Too high an intake of LA can increase the risk of heart disease, omegas ratio is really important for health.
The imbalance between ratios causes chronic and degenerative inflammation. It is taken as a reference that the optimum ratio should be between 1:5 and 1:1 (referring to the pThe first figure refers to omega 3 and the second to omega 6.). In practice we can see diets with ratios of 1:25 or even 1:50, and this is totally disproportionate for our health.
You may think that to improve the ratio it doesn't matter if you increase the omega-3 dose or decrease the omega-6 dose, but it does matter how you recover that ratio. The impact on your health of a high omega-6 intake does not disappear even if you supplement with omega-3 to try to balance the scales..
The only real solution with a positive response for your health is through lower omega-6 intake. This means that you must stay away from ultra-processed food and your ratio will return to healthy values, preventing unnecessary risks to your health. Eat real food, forget about the processed food that we humans have invented. I advise you to check this guide on what foods we should eat to be healthy as before.
Round business, on the one hand, we increase sales of processed products high in omega-6 and on the other hand to compensate we sell supplementation to increase the dose of omega-3.
If you still believe that the ratio of the ratios is not having such an impact on your health you only have to look around you. Since the introduction of junk food the omega-6 ratios in our diet have skyrocketed and consequently heart disease has skyrocketed in the same way. And it's not something you have to hear from a doctor or in the news, surely you know someone around you who has a very poor diet and has had a scare in the form of a heart attack or similar. It is something so common that it seems to us that it is normal?
Which fats to consume and how?
When we talk about fats, we must know what type of fats we are referring to, since within this range we find both those that are very good for our health and those that do the opposite.
As a general rule, the fats of natural origin play a very important role in our health.. The artificial fats, known as trans fats, are a real health hazard. and these are the ones we must avoid at all costs.
Eliminates the polyunsaturated vegetable oils.
We should bring to 0 the consumption of any hydrogenated vegetable oil. That is, sunflower oil, canola, corn, palm, rapeseed... All vegetable oils other than olive, avocado or coconut oil that have been extracted in a cold-pressing process.
They are polyunsaturated vegetable oils are economical and do not leave a taste in food, that is why they are widely used in catering. Although they are very unstable at high temperatures and therefore release toxins that will worsen our health, they are widely used in fried food preparations. Knowing this, avoid eating fried food outside the home, and always cook at home with stable oils.
For cooking, use more stable oils, such as olive, coconut or animal fat.
I guess you already knew that virgin olive oil is the best option both raw and for cooking with it. There are other oils that we are less familiar with in our gastronomy but that are also suitable to withstand high temperatures without degrading, such as coconut oil or animal fat.
You may find the latter strange, but our grandparents made the most of everything and knew what was good.
Have you ever tried saving the fat from the oven tray in a container when you have cooked Iberian pork ribs? The flavor is naturally spectacular.
You will be putting to use those fats that you have already paid for when you bought the ribs and you will also be adding flavor to the dish in which you use this cooking oil.
I keep it in the refrigerator, so I make sure it does not go rancid with the heat and the passage of time.
Prioritizes the consumption of grassfed meat especially in fattier cuts
Many of the toxins from antibiotics accumulate mainly in the fat of the animals. That is why it is important that when you choose this type of fattier meats, the meat should be of high quality, so that its fat is healthy.
If you can't afford to have your shopping basket entirely from free-range animals, you can be more permissive on leaner meats.
Myths about fats
Fats are bad, choose light
The food industry has been in charge of making us think that fat was our main enemy. Once again, fat has two faces and it would have to be specified a little better what kind of fats are harmful to the population instead of generating this social alarm.
In the food business, establishing this principle on fats was an important great opportunity to create more industrialized products in which value is supposed to be added and therefore companies can charge more for the end product. It is a way to make money without considering what should be more important, offering a quality product that promotes the health of the people who consume it.
Thus was born the wide range of light versions that we have today, which only worsen the raw material. In substitution of natural fat, the industry adds cheap components such as sugar, and with a good marketing campaign convinces the population that its product is the best option for keeping in shape.
They do business by cutting calories (less fat and more carbohydrate) while lowering nutritional quality and playing with people's health.
Fat is fattening
It is true that fats have a higher caloric density than the other two macronutrients. Fats provide about 9 kcal per gram while carbohydrates and proteins provide only 4 kcal. However, this statement neglects the fact that both fats and proteins have a higher caloric density than the other two macronutrients. have a great satiating effectas opposed to carbohydrates. And one of the main problems is that by demonizing fats, their consumption has been replaced by ultra-processed products of little nutritional value.
Specifically, refined carbohydrates create a large insulin spike in the blood to combat sugar reaching the bloodstream. Disrupting insulin levels with large spikes does work against weight loss. When we want to lose weight we must prioritize insulin stability. Here, I show you in more detail how to switch to the Paleo diet and easily control these insulin levels to promote weight loss.
You are what you eat
If you do it consciously, making good choices, always putting the quality of what you eat first, we understand that you will be a healthy person.
But there is an interpretation of this sentence that goes further and adds "if you eat fat you will be fat". And this statement is totally false. As we have seen, fat accumulation depends mainly on a caloric balance (so much you eat - so much you move) that is influenced by other very important variables for hormonal regulation, also basic in weight loss/gain: the quality of food, rest, circadian rhythm, stress, personal relationships, contact with nature...
In addition, when we say fat, we put in the same bag the fat that is healthy and the one that is not. It is not enough to say "fat", we must know which fat we are talking about in each context.
Health problems in bodies with a very low fat index
It's easy to say that social media is to blame for many eating disorders that exist today. Clearly we can't point to a single culprit, but the fact that it's now so easy to compare yourself to people who show only their best side sure hasn't helped.
Regardless of the reason why each person decides to undergo a very low-fat diet to achieve the "fitness bikini" type body we all imagine, it has very serious health consequences for those who dare to expose themselves to such torture.
Especially in girls, it is unnatural to eat a very low fat, very low calorie diet with many hours of "cardio" to achieve a body with a body fat index low enough to allow them to show off abs. Many girls have seen how they have lost their period in the fight for a six pack. Menstruation is a vital indicator of health, when we lose our menstruation, the issue is serious..
It should also be noted that not all girls who show six pack have a health problem. For those people whose somatotype is normal to have a low fat index, they are not endangering their health.
For those girls who fight against their nature constantly to obtain a marked abdomen despite the fact that their body does not tend to be comfortable at such low body fat ratios, they are adding a health problem to themselves.
Most girls, as a basic evolutionary matter (we are the ones who get pregnant and ensure the species), our bodies are better off at a higher body fat index that doesn't allow us to show off a six pack.
And that's okay, if you understood that the level of health is not the same as abs.