A Tale of 2 Fats Part 3: The Good Fats

I always like to close things out on a positive note- and I’ll do so in this case by discussing the Heart Healthy fats: Poly- & Mon0- unsaturated fats or PUFAs, & MUFAs- which is how I will refer to them in this entry- as they are painful to type out repeatedly 🙂

So both PUFAs and MUFAs are UNSATURATED meaning there are carbon atoms but no hydrogenation- so no hydrogen atoms.  These two are also considered ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS (EFAs).  They are essential because our bodies cannot make them on their own, we must consume them through diet. 

Every living cell requires EFAs- our bods use EFAs for rebuilding  and production of new cells, producing eicosanoids these regulate a number of bodily functions, and subsets of eicosanoids called thromboxanes & prostaglandins- both of which have a substantial influnce over our immune system, inflammation, clot formation, blood lipid levels, and responding to injury (all kind of important things- so it’s important to be putting these in our body). 

A deficiency or poor, infrequent, or non-existant intake of EFAs will likely cause a deficiency therefore disrupt the important balance between eicosanoids and their health protective benefits listed above. 

The two most noted, and discussed EFAs are Linoleic Acid and Linolenic Acid, or more commonly known as Omega 6, and Omega 3 fatty acids respectively. 

The Omega 3 & 6’s are polyunsaturated fats.  PUFAs are liquid at room temp, and when chilled. 

PUFAs will reduce LDL, and help raise HDL, and may help lower risk of heart disease. 

PUFA

Sources of Omega 3’s & 6’s are: vegetable oils (soybean, corn, & safflower), nuts & seeds (walnuts, & sunflower), and fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, & trout). 

Monunsaturated fats  have many of the same qualities as PUFAs such as then are liquid at room temp, but they will turn solid when refrigerated, and they only have 1 double bonded carbon atom.  MUFAs tend to have the same effect on health- they help lower bad cholesterol (LDL), and help with HDL, and help to lower risk of heart disease. 

Avocado and nuts EVOO

Sources of MUFAs include: Veggie oils (olive, canola, peanut, sesame) avocados, olives, almonds, peanuts, peanut/nut butter, seeds. 

 

Now remember.  While these fats are healthier they are still fats.  Meaning they will come with more calories per gram.  MEANING- you do not need 4 tablespoons of olive oil in your pan to get the benefits, nor do you need to eat that whole bag of almonds.  This is typically where people get into trouble, because lay media touts the benefits of these but neglects to add they really are high in calories and a small portion will pack in a lot of benefits.  So people help themselves to these items, and still put on weight, and their lipids still don’t improve. 

Another reason people sometimes do not see improvement after including these in the diet can be one of two reasons or a combination

1) The better choices have been added but trans and saturated fats are still being consumed in excess

2) Lack of physical activity- one of the best things for HDL rising is exercise- and not just HDL- but overal health.  This doesn’t mean register for a marathon, but to increase from your current baseline. 

Lastly I want to include this picture for oils to better explain oils as a whole.  Many times people think one oil is better than another.  Essentially you want to select oils with higher MUFA and PUFA levels than Saturated fat levels

OilsAs you can see here the fats/oils with the more “orange” should be avoided.  You want some with more blue/purple/yellow such as: canola.  Really anything between Canola and Soybean on here would be decent choices. 

Here is the formula to heart healthy existance:

1) Identify your sources of all the fats I have discussed

2) Identify the “bad” fats you eat, and then identify how often you eat them, or better how often you buy them.  For instance- I eat butter.  I buy butter maybe every 3-4 months.  I don’t think I eat too much butter.  If I purchased butter every other week- that could be an area to work on.  Also don’t forget hidden sources of fats- such as mayo, salad dressings etc

3) After identifying your sources of not so healthy fats, consider how you can incorporate more MUFAs and PUFAs.  Try to get two servings of the fish each week.  Buying frozen is ok- just make sure it was flash frozen, and no added sodium or sauces. 

4) Incorporate physical activity- if your “baseline” is zero, meaning you work a sedentary job (sitting/immobile for most of the day), start off by walking 15 minutes each day, or 4 days per week- and increase from there. 

5) Still lost? Seek out the help of a Registered Dietitian.  More times than not a physician will give you a handout (minus any explanation), and tell you to “cut down on red meat and eggs and eat more fish”. 

 

Resources

American Heart Association

American Diabetes Association

Breaking the Metabolic Code

 

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