Why we need to eat fats?
Staying healthy means getting all the necessary vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble. They must bind to fats in the stomach in order to be absorbed by our bodies. Without enough fat in the diet we would soon experience shortages of these vitamins.
Fats make up the very structure of our cells. Three types of fats comprise cell membranes. These include cholesterol, phospholipids and glycolipids. Both saturated and unsaturated fats make up the cell membrane lipids. The types and proportions of fatty acids are crucial for proper cell functioning. Most of the necessary fatty acids come from the food we eat.
Our brains are approximately 60% fat. Various fatty acids control how well the brain performs. Essential fatty acids cannot be made within our bodies and must come from our diet. Omega-3 fatty acids seem most critical for early brain development, growth and functioning. Many neurological disorders seem to be associated with imbalances of the various essential fatty acids within the brain. Again, diet is the source of these fatty acids.
Cholesterol plays an important role in maintaining the health and integrity of our blood vessels and individual cells. This complex lipid molecule has four linked hydrocarbon rings with a hydrocarbon tail on one end and a hydroxyl group on the other end. Cholesterol is a steroid and regulates what is allowed to pass through cell membranes. Our bodies make their own cholesterol from the essential fatty acids that we eat.
What are the healthy fats we should eat?
The best fats for long-term health seem to be derived from whole food sources and mostly unprocessed. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated seem to be healthier than saturated. More omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids are better than more omega-6 fatty acids.
Organic oil is better to avoid as many pesticide, herbicide and other chemical residues as possible. Organic also eliminates the GMO issue. Cold pressed is best and also the least processed. “Extra virgin” or “first press” oils include more antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds and other nutrients.
Make a variety of nuts part of your daily diet to ensure adequate healthy fat intake. Do the same with a wide variety of seeds. Eat fatty vegetables and fruits like avocados and olives. Snack on these foods instead of eating candy. Include them in casseroles, sauces and baked goods. Sprinkle them on salads and vegetables.
Organic extra virgin olive oil is at the top of my list when I want additional fat for flavor or to make a dressing or sauce. Organic avocado oil is right next to it and is my favorite for sauteing. I use truffled olive oil for flavor on salads, vegetables and pastas. Coconut oil is great for cooking curries or tropical fruit chutneys.
Grass-fed butter is a saturated fat but seems to be healthy in limited amounts. It is also an important source of vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids. Grass-fed dairy avoids the heavy metals and other contaminants found in grain feed. This caution also applies to other saturated animal fats from poultry, pork and beef: grain feed is commonly contaminated with heavy metals, dioxins, pesticides and herbicides that get concentrated in the fatty areas of the animals. Avoid animal fats that are not grass and/or pasture fed and raised.
What fats should be avoided?
Trans-fats should never be eaten. Trans-fats are proven to raise cholesterol levels in the blood and contribute to heart disease and other disorders. Our bodies do not cope well with a regular diet of trans-fats.
Saturated animal fats from commercial grain-fed animals should also be avoided. The feed is almost always contaminated and the contaminants get concentrated in the animals’ fat. Avoid whenever possible. These include butter, cream and other full-fat dairy, lard, chicken fat and eggs.
Most polyunsaturated fats in oils derived from seeds and grains should be avoided. They tend to be high in omega-6 fatty acids. This makes them inflammatory in our bodies.
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