February 19, 2014 by Dr. Sana Keller
Healthy Fats? Really??
YES, there are Healthy Fats. Our bodies need Healthy Fats to regain and maintain full health. Sadly, many fats (especially oils) are marketed as healthy when clinical studies have proven that they are NOT healthy. NO, this doesn’t mean we can eat bacon at every meal! 🙂
Dietary fats include saturated fats , polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Although many health professionals and food companies still promote polyunsaturated fats as the healthiest option, science has progressed and no longer supports this outdated information. Healthy Lifestyle Coaching provides current, science-based health information like this that promotes optimal health. Read on…
Saturated Fats: Why Our Bodies Need Them
Saturated fats perform many functions in our bodies. The membranes that surround the cells in our bodies are roughly half saturated fats—Our brains require saturated fats to function—Omega-3 fatty acids require saturated fats for proper absorption and use by the brain and body—Saturated fats are needed to make necessary hormones in our bodies—Saturated fats reduce inflammation, promote calcium absorption, support our immune system—They also provide a feeling of fullness (satiety) with eating, which helps us feel satisfied longer after eating. MAJOR KEYS to optimal health regarding saturated fat intake include appropriate amounts and high quality sources.
A side note: Saturated fats do NOT ‘clog’ your arteries! This widely prevalent belief began as a result of a weak correlation between heart disease and fat intake reported in the 1960’s. Well-designed, clinically controlled studies over the last several decades have NOT supported this finding.
Polyunsaturated fats have been widely promoted as the overall ‘fats’ category to consume by traditional Western medicine. Sadly, this is NOT TRUE! Specific polyunsaturated fats are essential for our health, including those with the healthy ratio of Omega-3’s and Omega-6 fatty acids (sometimes called essential fatty acids).
A MAJOR KEY to optimal health is maintaining a healthy ratio of Omega-6’s to Omega-3’s (roughly 1:1 or 2:1) in our diet (realizing that the typical American diet ratio is often 10:1–20:1–or even higher). Although we see dozens of brands and types of polyunsaturated oils on the supermarket shelves, very few contain a healthy ratio of Omega-3’s to Omega-6’s. This frequently found ratio imbalance is a major contributing factor to many of the serious health challenges we’re seeing in growing numbers today. Click here to learn more about best food sources for healthy fats with healthy ratios of Omega-6’s and 3’s.
Monounsaturated fats as a whole, have been widely promoted as well, yet once again, they are NOT all the same. Olive oil is 73% monounsaturated fat—as compared to sunflower oil that is 19% monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fats contain antioxidants (a good thing–they reduce free radicals) and help reduce inflammation when consumed in proper amounts. More info on healthy options in this category can be found in here.
Unhealthy fats include canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower and sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, margarines, and trans fats (not a complete list!). These oils are easily damaged by heat, air, light and moisture, cause increased inflammation and the production of free radicals in our body (not a good thing).
As you can see on the blue chart, the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio in the oils and food listed is highly unbalanced (in the wrong way!) with the exception of flax seed and fish (think salmon, sardines). Although canola oil contains 61% monounsaturated fat, it also contains 20% Omega-6 polyunsaturated fat (and only 9% Omega-3 polyunsaturated fat). In addition, it is highly processed, which causes the Omega-3’s to go rancid. Therefore it does NOT qualify as a healthy oil. Most canola oil is also genetically engineered as well, adding additional health risks.
This can be mind-bending information, especially since there are still commercials on TV promoting the goodness of these oils. Yet this information is based on solid, science-backed studies.
How about Cholesterol Levels and Saturated Fat Intake?
Increasing numbers of studies are showing that total cholesterol levels are not a direct risk for cardiovascular (heart) disease. In addition, quality saturated fats can actually increase the large, ‘fluffy’ particles of LDL which are not associated with heart disease. The small, dense LDL particles are associated with heart disease. And NO, saturated fats don’t cause elevated triglyceride levels–refined carbohydrates do. More on best choices in the saturated fats category in my next post…
I look forward to your questions and feedback as we continue forward on this healthy learning curve about healthy fats and healthy living!
Sana Keller, PhD, RN, CNC Health Unlimited LLC
Photo credits: tinaspharm.wordpress.com, gnowfglins.com, marksdailyapple.com, betterhealthinternational.com