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The truth about fat

Posted Mar 24 2010 12:00am

Fat In a society obsessed by body weight,  fat has been a important subject.  We first thought that eating fat was the primary factor of weight gain, and that all fats were the same. Not so long ago, we discovered cholesterol.  We have been taught that certain foods contains cholesterol, and that we should avoid it to avoid increasing our blood cholesterol levels and for hearth health.

Fortunately, with time, scientists made more and more researches about fats and on their roles on the human body, and it goes far beyond the “good fats” and the “bad fats” that you may have heard of.

Saturated fats

Fats are chains of macro-elements that connects together within the body.  If you look at a saturated fat chain under the microscope, you’ll see that the chain is completely straight.  This has the effect that those chains can stick together very easily to from tight , rigid walls around the cells.  We have to know that for the good functioning of the cells in our body, the walls of the cells must be supple to facilitate the detoxification process.  If the cell walls are tightened by stocks of saturated fats, the cell membrane cannot do its work properly of keeping the essentials nutrients inside and letting go the toxins outside. For this reason, and the fact the some of them increases the blood cholesterol production, saturated fats should be avoided.

Where are saturated fats found and how to avoid them

Saturated fats are mainly found in read meat, dairy products, nuts and seeds.  Those fats have a very long shelf life, and can resist to high cooking temperatures, so they are usually used in highly refined products and cooking oils.  You can find them in the ingredient list as “lauric acid”, “palmitic acid” and “stearic acid” when added in food in their purest form. The best way to reduce your saturated fat intake is to follow a low fat vegan diet, or even better, a low fat raw vegan diet.

Insaturated fats

There’s two type of unsaturated fats: monoinsaturated and polyinsaturated, which includes Omega 3 and Omega 6 categories.

I’ve talked about how saturated fats rigidify the cell membrane. Well, by their curved tails, insaturated fats chains have the opposite effect.  So these are the “good fats”, isn’t it?  Well, yes and no.  In fact, those fats are by far superior to saturated fats. However, they have a very short shelf life, and they are very sensitive to heat.  When heated, those fats creates free radicals that contribute to ageing and may increase the risk of degenerative diseases.

Also, some of the polyinsaturated fats, like the arachidionic acid (an Omega6 type fat), favorise inflammation.  However, the linolenic acid, also found in Omega 6 form, has been proven as a potential cancer inhibitor.  The important thing to remember is to get the good Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio.

Talking about Omega 3

Why are we hearing everywhere about Omega3s? Well, that’s because they are part of the beneficial class of fats, and even if the average North American has a high fat diet, they usually severely lack of Omega 3.

Do we have to eat fish or take supplements to have enough Omega3s? Not really.  There’s 2 types of Omega 3s: the short chains and the long chains.  The form that the body uses is the long chain one, primary found in fish, in egg yolks from hens feeded with flax seeds, and game.  However, the body has the ability to build long chained Omega3 from short chained omega 3 found in food such as flax seeds, walnuts, seaweed, and purslane. So for those who doesn’t want to eat fish, for any reason, could get their omega 3s in vegetal form.

Trans fats

There’s another type of fat that we can hear about those days; the trans fats. Trans fats that we have transformed by incorporating water. You’ll commonly find them in the ingredient list as hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil.  Those fats are the worts for the body.  Their structure itself is a physiological disruptor.  Trans fats block the formation of Omega 3s within the body. So if you rely mainly on vegetable source of omega 3 in your diet, be sure to completely avoid trans fat.

But why have we created this fat if it’s so unhealthy? That’s because it has an incredibly long shelf life, and gives a uniform texture to food. As example, you’ll never see the oil separation in standard peanut butter as you can see it in natural one. That’s because they add hydrogenated oils in standard peanut butter to avoid the oil separation.

The only way to avoid trans fat, is to carefully read the food ingredient list. Don’t rely on the food statistics to detect trans fat as the regulations allow products with a low trans fat content to not write it on the label.  Of course, a low-fat, whole food based diet is the best way to avoid trans fats.

Cholesterol

A couple of years ago, that was the main fat problem that the media were focusing on.  At that time, we thought that eating egg yolk, prawns and other foods that contains cholesterol had a direct effect on the cholesterol measures in the blood tests.  However, the researches has proven that the cholesterol that you eat has little to do with the one naturally produced by the body, which correspond to the blood cholesterol.  However, you should avoid oxidized cholesterol, because it may increase the risk of arteriosclerosis of the aorte.

Lecithin and inositol

Those substances are fats that are essentials to the body. Those fats play an important role in the cell membrane elasticity, and helps the communication between cells themselves.  Those fats are also involved in the natural detoxification process.  Lecithin and Inositol can naturally be found in egg yolks, seafood, nuts and legumes.

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