Facts about fat and how to use it to benefit your health
Fats often do not have a good reputation among vital substances. The thing about fat is that we need the different types in different amounts because naturally occurring fatty acids provide our body with energy and are also excellent flavor carriers. I’ll tell you what fats actually are and what they do for us.
Sources of Healthy Fatty Acids
We can find valuable fats in a wide variety of foods. In the jungle of fats, it is easy to lose track of things. An important difference between fats and oils is that the former are solid and oils are liquid at room temperature. Both forms are essential to us because they are flavor and aroma carriers as well as energy suppliers of the body. Each gram provides 9.1 calories – more than twice as many as carbohydrates and proteins.
Fats were wrongly banned from the kitchen for a long time, because they do not necessarily lead to obesity, diabetes, fat metabolism disorders or other diseases. Above all, their composition is decisive for the health benefit. Edible oils and high-fat fish provide valuable essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce itself. The amazing fact about fat is that the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in particular are healthy. Saturated fatty acids, on the other hand, should be consumed less. The nutrient is also important, however, in terms of fat-soluble vitamins.
Good and healthy: unsaturated fatty acids
Fat is the macronutrient with the worst reputation – wrongly. Because the body needs it just like carbohydrates and protein. It depends, however, on the type of fat we consume. The fatty acid composition is decisive. While animal foods such as meat, sausage and cheese mostly contain saturated fatty acids, vegetable oils, some fish such as mackerel, salmon and herring as well as nuts mainly provide monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Unsaturated fats are considered healthy: They can have a positive effect on the blood fat level, which is good for the heart and blood vessels. When consumed in excess, saturated fats have the opposite effect. If you only occasionally go overboard and eat the fatty goose meat at Christmas, for example, but otherwise have a balanced diet, you usually don’t have to worry.
What foods are they in?
What sounds complicated about fat is relatively simple in nutritional practice. You can usually recognize saturated fatty acids that are considered less healthy by the fact that they are solid at room temperature. The piece of butter is the prime example, but also coconut and palm kernel fat in block form.
We can ind unsaturated fatty acids, on the other hand, in liquid oil, although not all oil is the same in terms of nutritional value. Among other things, it depends on the content of the much-cited omega 3 fatty acids. Saturated fats, however, are part of many foods. Sausage, meat, fatty cheeses and dairy products as well as baked goods made from high-fat doughs contain particularly high amounts.
Simple kitchen tips to avoid saturated fats
Since saturated fats are hidden in many finished products, the simplest rule to avoid is: cook yourself as often as possible, using vegetable oils. With a high proportion of vegetables and fruit on the list of ingredients, you are definitely on the safe side, as these foods are usually low in fat or contain unsaturated fatty acids. You should also prefer lean meats, such as boiled ham instead of salami. Be careful with sweets such as chocolate bars, pastries and nut-nougat spreads: They often contain a lot of saturated fatty acids.
What does the body do with the fat?
Another noteworthy fact about fat is that all we eat is already broken up mechanically by the chewing movements in the mouth and enriched with enzymes. The enzymes added in this way only become active in the stomach. The breakdown into fatty acids and so-called glycerides follows. The components are either released into the bloodstream or transported away via the lymphatic vessels. Finally, the nutrient is converted into energy or reaches the fat cells and is stored there as a depot.
Warning: it is often confused with cholesterol. The latter is structurally similar to fatty acids, but is naturally formed by the human body. Cholesterol also fulfills important functions such as supporting digestion.
What about fat when you lose weight – what happens to it?
You should refrain from suddenly consuming no fats or too little food. This will only reduce your body’s calorie consumption and make you feel tired and flabby. Then when you start eating again, the infamous yo-yo effect ensures that the weight you lost is back on your hips right away. In the “real” way of losing weight, the excess fat is broken down and then processed into carbon dioxide and water.
As contradicting as it sounds, a high-fat diet can even help you lose weight, as one can clearly see in the keto diet. Fats make you feel full for a long time, and the body has to deal with breaking them down for a while. It has not been proven yet, however, that the medium-chain MCT fats are downright slimming products.
Strong muscles thanks to fat
Wha’s also interesting about fat is that the supposed fattener is also a fuel for the muscles; it plays an important role in building muscle. If you avoid carbohydrates and prefer to eat foods that are high in fat and at the same time have a good fatty acid composition, then your training can be more effective. Carbohydrates or sugar provide energy more quickly, but this effect is only short-term. In the longer term, fat is better able to build muscle and at the same time helps to curb cravings after an intense sports session. These cravings are more likely to occur with sweet snacks with an excessively high carbohydrate density.
Healthy fats can be found in many foods
You can find good fat in vegetable oils, nuts, avocado, or tuna. Some foods contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are particularly valuable. These include, above all, superfoods such as chia seeds or salmon, as well as linseed oil and walnuts. When choosing the right oil you should pay attention to the word “extra virgin” (mostly for olive oil). Both mean that the process of oil extraction takes place without additional heat input. Very important for the quality and the taste!
Cook with fat and oil daily
Try a dash of linseed oil in yogurt, for example. You can easily ensure that you are consuming healthy vegetable fats every day. For instance, add a little linseed oil to your yogurt in the morning. Or make a salad with a dressing of olive oil and vinegar for lunch. And for dinner you can enjoy some salmon fried in coconut or rapeseed oil. So you have a good fatty acid mix, and don’t need to worry about fat anymore. You can read more about whether butter or margarine is healthier in my following post:
I hope this article has cleared up any questions you might have had about fat and how to add more of it to your daily nutrition. I hope you can see now that you don’t need to be scared of eating more fatty acid. They are essential for your body and will support your overall well-being as long as you make sure you consume the right ones with a balanced diet.
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