Sadly, we have been largely brainwashed to believe that saturated fats, such as butter, coconut oil and ghee are the main source of increased cholesterol levels and weight gain.
But, I hope by the end of this article I will have managed to sway your views on fat. It is not your enemy, it should be your best friend.
When consuming stable fats in your diet they help you to feel content and as a result you are able to avoid snacking between meals without intense hungry cravings.
Fats also play an important role in balancing blood sugar throughout the day, helping your sugar levels to stabilize. They do this by decreasing the rate in which carbohydrates and protein enter via the intestines and into the circulation.
As your body becomes satiated by consuming fat subsequently maintaining, it is less likely to crave certain foods and also requires a reduced amount of calories during the day. This is the very reason I created the controversial Twitter hashtag “fit women eat fat.”
What is dietary fat?
The construction of all fats are referred to as fatty acids, these are made up from chains of carbon atoms connected like beads on a string. Hydrogen atoms surround these carbon atoms and every fatty acid has an acid (carboxyl) group on one end. The number of carbon atoms in each fatty acid chain, the types of bonds between the carbons and how many hydrogen atoms the carbons are holding on to, determines the type of fat.
There are 3 types of dietary fats:
1. Saturated fats – these fats are stable and are solid at room temperature, turning into liquid when above room temperature (body temperature). These fats do not contain double bonds between the carbon atoms, unlike unsaturated fats. The carbons atoms contain single bonds to hydrogen atoms; the carbon atoms have the greatest amount of hydrogen atoms. Therefore when in contact with oxygen, light or high temperatures the bonds cannot be broken down easily.
This is why I have always recommended using saturated fats for cooking due to its ability to stand heat at high temperatures. Saturated fats don’t smoke or burn as fast as other fats and they resist oxidation even when heated.
The majority of saturated fats come from animal’s sources and these fats should be the main source of fat in the human diet. They are found in all dairy products, coconut oil, animal tallow from pasture-raised animals, lard from pasture- raised animals, palm kernel oil, ghee and chocolate fat.
2. Mono-saturated fat (MUFA) –these fats are liquid at room temperature and become cloudy during refrigeration. MUFA have one double carbon bond and are fairly stable, but this double bond can be greatly affected by contact with oxygen, temperature and light, therefore, eventually contributes to MUFA instability.
The single bond is vulnerable to being modified and broken down. The single bond also manipulates the configuration of the fat and creates a bend, or kink.
This is the reason why these fats should not be used for cooking as they are not stable enough when exposed to high temperatures, but they can be added cold for flavour. Olive oil is a well-known MUFA and is traditionally used by most Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures today.
Macadamia nuts also contain a high proportion of MUFA. These fats are more stable than polyunsaturated fats but far less than saturated and therefore should only make up a small amount of your daily diet.
3. Poly-unsaturated Fats (PUFA) – these fats are liquid at any temperature above freezing. They break down rapidly and contain two or more open double carbon bonds. Due to the fact they have multiple double bonds, they also have multiple kinks and bends in their structure.
So when coming into contact with oxygen, light and temperature these fats are effortlessly broken apart, creating free radicals known as lipid peroxides which destroy important enzymes and damage the vital energy production inside your cells.
As humans we cannot digest foods, form blood clots, create or use hormones without enzymes.
When oxygen reacts with these fats, it wastes oxygen that could have been used in combination with glucose to produce energy for the body.
As for ruminant animals known as herbivores, such as cows, sheep, goats, buffalo and deer, these animals have amazing digestive systems that allow them to handle PUFA in the plant matter that they are consumed. Humans (omnivores) do not have the ability to digest like the previously mentioned animals. Try to reduce your consumption of foods rich in PUFA, as they are foundation of degeneration occurring in humans today.
PUFA-loaded foods come from plants. Sea animals that have these plant fats source them from algae. The fish oil industry that advertises these poses the biggest danger to human health. These unsaturated fats made up from EPA, DHA and PUFA found in fish contain around 5 – 6 double bonds, that is something to be concerned about. PUFA rich foods and oil are found in soy oil, corn Oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, fish oil, evening primrose oil, omega-3 and omega-6, flax and linseed oil, almond oil, as well as any nuts, seeds, beans or vegetable oils and fats from industrial farmed poultry and eggs.
Fat is good but we must consume fats that are natural and stable for your body. Fat will always have a bad reputation until we start to open our minds to the truth behind the makeup of these fats and how they can really harm our body. We need to stop listening to the food advertising industry when to comes down to taking care of our health; their advice is only motivated by profit. It is more profitable to manufacture margarine made from chemicals than it is use a healthy cow as a good source of butter.
In March 2011 Dr. Joe Schwarcz, Elizabeth R. Laird, guest lecturer and professor of nutrition education at Columbia University said when asked if she preferred butter or margarine, replied “I would rather trust a cow than a chemist.”
Vahdaneh Vahid is a UK-based Personal Trainer who recently moved to Dubai. She has had an interest in fitness from a young age. Her motto is now "Train Don't Drain" and teaches her clients that a balanced understanding of their physical, mental and emotional wellness is key. She can be found on Twitter: @vvfitness