In recent years, people have started to avoid fats with the belief that it is beneficial for our body, and eliminating fats from the diet will help us lose weight and a healthy lifestyle. But not all fats are same!
It is better to avoid some fats, but we must not forget the healthy fats that our body needs to function properly.
Which fats are healthy and should you definitely include them in your diet?
What exactly are fats?
Fats are nutrients that give us energy. Each gram of (any) fat contains 9 calories.
The difference is how the body can process them. Fats are either saturated or unsaturated and in most foods containing fats we find both types, but one group of fats usually significantly exceeds the other.
Therefore, it is not possible to say that fats or some foods are completely “bad”. However, in the long run, some fats are healthier than others.
What types of fats do we know?
All fats have a similar structure. They consist of a chain of carbon atoms to which hydrogen atoms are attached. So what distinguishes different types of fats?
The length and shape of the carbon chain and the number of hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon are different.
It may sound too complicated, but the seemingly small differences in chemical structure are significantly reflected in the form and especially the function of fats. And that’s exactly what makes some healthier ones.
“Good” and “healthy” fats are the unsaturated ones – they are further divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
Unsaturated fats also include trans fatty acids, but don’t be fooled by the fact that they belong to “good” fats.
This is how we refer to fats that are industrially produced, artificially hardened, and do not benefit our body.
It is actually a way of converting healthy vegetable oils into hardened fats in the form of margarine.
The second category is saturated fats. We include mainly animal ones.
Our body needs them to function properly, but they should make up only a small portion of all the fat we consume.
Which fats are unhealthy?
The worst are just trans fats, which are commonly added to cakes, desserts, but also all kinds of biscuits, chips and french fries.
According to many studies, eating trans fats increases the level of harmful LDL cholesterol in the blood. Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood increase the risk of heart disease.
Since 2006, the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has required trans fats to be included in nutrition tables as separate items.
In what foods do we find fats?
Saturated fats can be found mainly in red meat, dairy products, cheese, eggs or in coconut and palm oil.
Studies have not shown that consuming these fats is not primarily beneficial to our body, but they recommend replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats.
Such a diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Healthy, unsaturated fats can be found mainly in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.
Beneficial fats can be found in animal products, mainly in fish meat, and some of them are also contained in butter.
Foods rich in healthy fats
- Olive oil – According to studies, a Mediterranean diet that makes extensive use of extra virgin olive oil can help reduce the incidence of heart attacks or other types of heart disease.
- Butter and Ghee – Contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, is rich in fat-soluble vitamins and trace minerals including selenium, which is a powerful antioxidant. However, butter also contains saturated fatty fats, so it is necessary to save with it.
- Nuts – They contain important vitamins and minerals, the most nutritious in this regard are walnuts, which have 5 grams of fat per serving. Almonds, which are again loaded with vitamin E, are also great.
- Seeds – For example, flax or chia seeds are high in fiber and fat, while boasting low carbohydrate content.
- 100% Peanut Butter – You can usually find a delicacy made from peanuts in the form of a paste, so where do you add it?
- Dark chocolate – It is rich in antioxidants, contains flavonoids and tastes great! Choose those with at least 70% cocoa content. We love chocolates from Madagascar!
- Fish – They are full of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. You can find the most fats in mackerel, herring and sardines, for example. By contrast, such a halibut contains only 1 gram of fat per 100 grams of meat.
- Avocado – Boasts lots of monounsaturated fats, contains vitamin E and is full of healthy proteins! Have you already lyophilized it?
- Coconut – Coconut is an amazing food. Its pulp can be processed in a large number of ways that you can easily use in the kitchen. Will you try pieces, flour, grated coconut pulp, milk or oil? Or you can try something less common – lyophilized coconut or dried coconut water.
- Black olives – One cup of black olives has 15 grams of fat – it is mainly monounsaturated fats.
- Dairy products and eggs – Contains, among other things, omega-6 fatty acids, vitamins, proteins and probiotics.
Why are healthy fats important?
- They are primarily a storehouse of energy for the body.
- They ensure the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K.
- It protects organs, nerves and tissues, helps regulate body temperature.
- They are involved in the production of essential hormones in the body.
- They are needed to form cell membranes, the vital exterior of each cell, and the envelopes surrounding the nerves.
- They are necessary for blood clotting and muscle movement.
- They keep hair, skin and nails healthy.
- Regular use of omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with a reduced risk of eye disease leading to damage and vision loss.
How much fat to consume per day?
It is said that everything is very harmful. And this is doubly true for fats. The daily intake of all fats should be around 30% of the daily energy intake.
For some people, it is convenient to focus their diet more on fat intake and set aside other ingredients, but in that case we recommend supplementing the diet primarily with unsaturated – “healthy” fats.
We should completely avoid trans fats in our diet. Experts recommend limiting the consumption of saturated fats – the maximum should be 10% of daily calories.
For monounsaturated fats, you will usually not find any recommended amount per day, because it is recommended to consume them as much as possible together with polyunsaturated fats.
Ideally, they should serve as a complete replacement for saturated and trans fats.
Unsaturated fatty acids also include omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, which are divided on the basis of which of the carbons the first double bond is located.
Our body cannot make omega-3 and omega-6, but we must eat them in the diet for our body to function properly.
The American Heart Health Association (AHA) recommends that adults eat at least 100 grams of fish per week to ensure adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Otherwise, there are omega-6 fatty acids. According to researchers from the American Heart Organization (AHA), the daily intake of omega-6 fatty acids (corn, sesame or soybean oil) should not exceed 5-10% of the total daily energy intake.
However, do not forget that the most important parameter for a healthy lifestyle is and always will be a balanced and varied diet.