Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why Do We Need to Eat the Right Kinds of Fats (4 of 6)

To jump start this blog, I will be doing a series on "Fats." I'm excited to begin this journey learning about fats because it's everyone's favorite topic and one that is highly controversial.

We talked about the modern views of fat consumption, the different types of fats, why we need to avoid trans fats, and the right and wrong kinds of fats. Now let's discuss about why we need to eat the right kinds of fat.

Recent studies confirm that healthy fat consumption promotes sustainable weight loss while reducing cardiovascular risk factors. Healthy fats include omega-3 fatty acids (found in cod liver oil, egg yolks, and flax oil), medium-chain fats (found in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and butter), and long-chain saturated fats (found mostly in meat and dairy products). 

Why we need to eat the right kinds of fat?

- For the Brain. Sixty percent of the brain is composed of fat. Phospholipids (which contain about 50 percent saturated fats) help make up the brain cell membranes. Your brain is nourished when you eat saturated fats.
- For the Cells. It's needed to maintain cellular integrity of every cell membrane, as each cell membrane is made up of about 50 percent saturated fat. Cells become "floppy" if you eat too much polyunsaturated oil, but not enough saturated fat.
- For the Bones. Saturated fats are needed for calcium absorption into the skeletal structure. Otherwise it may contribute to osteoporosis.
- For the Liver. Saturated fats protect the liver from toxins.
- For the Heart. Saturated fats are the heart's preferred food, which is why there is a concentration of saturated fat in the tissues surrounding the heart. It provides energy to the heart in times of stress.
- For the Lungs. The fatty acids in the lung surfactant (a fluid that enables the lungs to work) are normally 100 percent saturated. The lung cannot work effectively if it lacks saturated fat, causing lung diseases such as asthma and lung cancer.
- For the Kidneys. Our kidney, which maintains blood pressure and filtering toxins from the body needs saturated fats to function properly.
- For the Hormones. Hormones require the right kinds of fats for the production of stress and sex hormones.
- For the production of Prostaglandins. Saturated fats play key roles in regulating the production of prostaglandins - hormones that act locally within the cells. Two of the three major classes of prostaglandins are made from omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. We need a good balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (ratio anywhere from 1:1 to 3:1) for optimal production of prostaglandins. High consumption of vegetable oils containing mostly omega-6 fatty acids results in an unhealthy ratio of about 20:1.
- For Cell Communication. Fats are involved in complex processes of cell communication.

We see how our body requires the right kinds of fats to function. In addition, we need fats to carry key fat-soluble vitamins D, E, K, and especially A, which boosts thyroid function and helps maintain a healthy metabolism. These vitamins are found mostly in animal fats; in fact, the only source of true vitamin A is animal fat. Polyunsaturated vegetable oils are usually rancid (even if they taste fine), do not contain these vitamins, and have other harmful side effects as well. 

The reason why people crave fried foods, doughnuts, ice cream, chips, and other oily foods is because these cravings are your body's desperate attempt to get the fats and fat-soluble vitamins it needs to function smoothly. If you were eating good quality fats containing these nutrients, you would not crave unhealthy foods containing the wrong kinds of fats.

Click here to see a list of fats sources. The good and the bad.

In the next part of this series, we will look into cholesterol. Is having a high cholesterol really that bad?

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