An Introduction to Healthy and Unhealthy Fats
Fat is one of the three important macronutrients required in our diet. It has a functional and a structural role in the body. The functional role of fat is to act as a protective insulator and provide a secondary or backup source of energy for the body. And the structural role of fat cells is that it is a house for storing excess “energy” or calories that the body cannot use immediately.
Food is energy better known as calories! Therefore, when we eat more food or calories than we need, the extra energy gets converted and then stored in our body’s fat cells. This is the essence of how we gain weight – fat storage. All the stored fat is potential energy that the body can use to sustain life during a period of starvation.
Carbohydrates are a premium source of energy! Therefore, a low carb diet reduces excess energy consumption that results in fat storage. As the body’s energy reserves are tapped into, there is an increase in the rate of metabolism.
Metabolism increases as the body is forced to use energy (calories) to tap into your body’s fat reserve for additional energy needs. With a higher metabolism, weight can be lost faster than with other diets because you will burn more calories. With consistency, you can lose weight and keep it off on a low carb diet.
1 gram of fat = 9 calories (energy)
A strict keto diet requires dieters to eat more fat than the average low carb diet. Therefore, it is important to know what kind of fat you are eating. There are healthy fats and there are unhealthy fats. The healthy fat benefits your overall health while unhealthy fat can take away from your overall health.
Normally, I would say that balance is key, but when you are consuming larger than average amounts of fat on a keto diet, you should endeavor to eat primarily healthy fats. I try to think of the unhealthy fats like a dessert – something that I would enjoy less often.
Unhealthy fats are fats that can lead to clogged arteries and veins. And as a result, lead to high blood cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Both of which can lead to more serious cardiovascular problems like heart attack, stroke, or kidney damage.
Partially hydrogenated (trans-fats) and animal-based saturated fats are unhealthy fats that contribute to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Trans fats not only increase your level of bad cholesterol (LDL) but will also decrease your good cholesterol levels (HDL)?!
Partially Hydrogenated Fats to Limit: Margarine, lard, and fried foods that you have not fried with a healthy fat yourself.
Saturated Fats to Limit: Red meat, pork, bacon, and full-fat dairy products.
Keep reading to learn more about all the healthy fat and what your body requires.
Healthy fats are fats that contribute to your overall well-being. Healthy fats that come directly from nature do not have cholesterol. Therefore, low carb nuts and low carb seeds do not contribute to clogging your veins and arteries. In fact, some healthy fats will actually help you lower your bad cholesterol levels.
Foods that are rich in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats can drastically improve blood cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health. Some research indicates that this kind of fat may also reduce your risk of getting type II diabetes. So, getting snacks to eat on a keto diet with healthy fats is important to your overall health.
Eat: Avocados, olives, low carb nuts, seeds, and nut butters are examples of healthy fat you can eat.
Eat: Healthy fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and trout are examples of good protein you can eat on a strict keto diet or traditional low carb diet.
3. Essential Fatty Acids
There are two essential fatty acids that are necessary for our health but cannot be produced by the body. Therefore, we must incorporate the following fatty acids in our diet: (1) alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3), and (2) linoleic acid (omega-6). While other fats can be synthesized from other fats that we eat, omega-3 and omega-6 cannot be synthesized in this way.
Health Benefits of Omega – 3, 6:
- Good for your skin.
- Can improve eye health.
- Improve bone and joint health.
- Can improve sleep.
- Minimize depression and anxiety.
- Reduce menstrual pain.
- Improve brain and nerve health.
- Reduce bad cholesterol levels.
- Improve overall cardiovascular health.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: salmon, mackerel, cod liver oil, herring, oysters, sardines, anchovies, caviar, olive oil, broccoli, brussel sprouts, seaweed, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, cashews, and pumpkin seeds are a good source of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids: Raw pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, flaxseed meal, grapeseed oil, hempseed oil, black currant seed oil, and evening primrose are a good source of omega-6 fatty acids.
Structure of Lipids (Fats)
Chemically speaking, fat that we eat are usually categorized according to the way that they bond. However, they can also be categorized by the length of their fatty acid chains. The latter method can help you recognize some ketogenic properties provided by the medium chain triglycerides (MCT) found in virgin unrefined coconut oil. However, keep in mind that the health benefits of coconut oil is a rare exception to the rules of fat!
- Saturated fat – double bonds, solid at room temperature, ie. animal fat, lard
- Unsaturated fat– one or more double bonds, liquid at room temperature, ie. olive oil, linseed
- Polyunsaturated fat – multiple double bonds, ie. omega-6
- Cis fat – a common unsaturated fat found in nature
- Trans fat – very rare in nature, a unhealthy kind of fat that is similar to eating an indigestible plastic.
This concludes – fat.