Fats are considered a macronutrient, meaning these a nutrients are substances that the body needs for growth and other important physiological processes. The main macronutrients the body uses are fats (lipids), carbohydrates (think pasta, pizza and bread) and protein! Fats can be further classified based on chemical structure and bonds, and this is where we get the differentiation of fats as saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated or trans fats.
Saturated Fats: These are fats that are mostly solid at room temperature. Diets that are high in saturated fats have been linked to cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease. These types of fats are best consumed in moderation. Here are some common food sources that contain high levels of saturated fats.
- High Fat Cheeses ( ex: blue cheese, cheddar cheese)
- Ice Cream
Trans Fats: These are not naturally occurring fats, but very easily manufactured. Research has shown that increased levels of trans fat in a person’s diet can increase their levels of LDL (low density lipoproteins), while decreasing their HDL (high density lipoproteins) levels. Why does this matter? Well, HDL is considered to be “cholesterol scavengers” that travel through our blood and “pick up” any excess cholesterol “lying around”. They will then return the cholesterol back to the liver so it can be used for production of biological molecules the body may need. Conversely, LDL accumulates in the walls of our blood vessels impeding blood flow, potentially putting them at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
Monounsaturated Fats (MUFA) & Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFA’s): These are the ever so popular “healthy fats” that we frequently hear about. People should consume higher levels of MUFA’s and PUFA’s in their diets as research has shown that these fats can help to protect the heart, by increasing levels of HDL. These unsaturated fats are where we get our Omega 3, 6 and 9’s from. Monounsaturated fats are also known as Omega-9, while the polyunsaturated fats are also referred to as Omega-3 & 6. While Omega-9 is not considered an essential fatty acid, it is still recommended that people consume a balance of all 3 omega fatty acids. Here is a list of foods that contain these healthy fats:
- Oils (vegetable, sunflower, olive & safflower)
- Nuts & Seeds: ( walnuts, pecans & flaxseed)
- Fish (salmon, trout and herring)
Best in Health,