Fat is a mega-nutrient that is critical to maintaining a healthy body and brain. In the body, fat is broken down into the micronutrient, fatty acid where it can be utilized by the body. Fat, also called adipose tissue, is found in the subcutaneous layer of the skin and surrounding vital organs. Fat assists in the absorption of many nutrients, provides protection, insulation, a back-up energy source, a storage sight for fat-soluble vitamins, assists in nerve transmission, and temperature regulation.
We know that dietary fat can be found in a variety of sources. It can make your head spin just trying to figure out what all the different terms mean. So rather than make this a discussion about what you should eat vs. what you shouldn’t eat, I decided to define some of the terms associated with fat to help you identify those sources in your diet that are healthier choices and reduce or eliminate those unhealthy fat choices.
Hydrogenation: Is formed during the manufacturing process, hydrogen is added to liquid fat to solidify it and stabilize the atoms. By doing so, products can stay on the shelf longer reducing spoilage.
Trans-fat: This is the end result of hydrogenation. The worst kind of fat as it clogs arteries and makes us fat. It provides absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever.
Cholesterol: Is a fatty substance that is produced by the liver and necessary for a variety of bodily functions such as: production of cell membranes, bile, and hormones. Because the body makes cholesterol we need very little of it from dietary sources. Too much and it can harden and clog our arteries, which can result in cardiovascular disease.
Saturated fat: Fat that is solid at room temperature. Is found in fatty cuts of meat, dairy products, butter, lard, solid shortening, and in some plant sources such as palm and coconut oil, many fried and processed foods. It raises blood cholesterol levels and results in increase risk for heart disease and stroke.
Polyunsaturated fat: A healthier form of fat that the body can better utilize. Found in vegetable oils and in Omega-3 (fatty fish such as salmon, halibut, mackerel, flounder, sole, herring, trout, tuna and sardines, and in walnuts, flaxseed, and canola oil) and Omega-6 (corn, sunflower, safflower, and soybean oils) products. Most Americans are deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids and have too much Omega-6 fatty acids in their diets. Balance between these two powerhouses is critical to maintaining healthy blood vessels and heart.
Monounsaturated fat: Fat that is liquid at room temperature and is found in olive, grapeseed, and pumpkin oils, in nuts such as: brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and cashews. Also found in vitamin-E and avocados.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are found to help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes; helps to promote healthy skin and body cell integrity, and may promote a healthy immune system.
With all the food choices available to us it is easy to cut out bad fat and increase healthy food choices to keep our brain and body functioning at optimal levels. A little prevention goes a long way and you will be glad you did!
In health and wellness,
Disclaimer: Dr. Mundorff is a Board Certified Naturopath, and not a medical doctor. The information in this column is for educational purposes only and should not be used to self-diagnose and treat diseases. Naturopathy is a complementary practice to health care and should be used in conjunction with a competent health care practitioner. Many herbal and homeopathic remedies can actually be contraindicated in many health conditions, with certain prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications. Please consult your physician before starting any alternative modalities.