Fats Are Healthy Part of Your Nutrition Plan

by Jessica Dawn - Date: 2007-01-09 - Word Count: 1878 Share This!

There are so many confusing messages about fat, sometimes it's difficult to know what to believe. In the 90's, we were all convinced to eat low fat dressing, fat free cookies, and nonfat yogurt and recently you've probably noticed the trend by retailers to remove trans fats from food products. There's always some new trend adding more information to the mix.

In order to eat right and make good choices that help you reach your goals, you should have a basic understanding of nutrition categories. There first thing you should be aware of are the three main categories of food; fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. When you eat a meal, each fat, carbohydrate, and protein is broken down into smaller molecules the body can then use to carry out all its vital functions. In the next few paragraphs I'll talk about the role of fat in the body and briefly discuss the various fat categories.

Fat, what is up with that?

First, let me explain the importance of fat to your cellular health. I'll try to be brief so you don't get bored. Molecules of fat are broken down into fatty acids. Fatty acids are dispersed along the outer layer of the cell, called the phospholipid membrane, there they are used to transport nutrients into and waste out of the cell.

Healthy cells equal a healthy body. To have healthy cells, the cell membrane must be functioning correctly. This means that nutrients and waste must be able to enter and exit the cell via the phospholipid membrane. Since the fats you eat are broken down into fatty acids, and the fatty acids are part of the membrane, it's important to include the right amount and the right type of fat in your nutrition plan. If you eat too much of the wrong fat, it can cause the cell membrane to become crowded with unhelpful fatty acids instead of the acids that are vital to properly functioning cells. (it happens over time, not because of one meal).

Sustained consumption of "bad fats" over years and years means more cell membranes are crowded with unhelpful fatty acids; the cells don't work as efficiently. As the number of unproductive cells grow, tissues, organs and general body function are negatively affected. That's when you begin to hear from your doctor about increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases.

I'm sure you have heard the terms saturated fat and trans fat, how about fractionated oil? These are the various forms of unhelpful fats that many Americans regularly consume without realizing their effects. Much of the food available to us currently is laden with this type of fat and stripped of its natural nutritional value. Most quick and convenient food you eat is manufactured using detrimental or chemically altered fats to increase the shelf life of foods and decrease the cost of production. So instead of the healthy and beneficial fats your body needs, you eat the fat which prevents your cells from working right.

The popular trend to eliminate as much fat as possible from your meals and gravitate towards foods labeled "fat free" doesn't help either (in my opinion). Just when you think you're doing something right, by eliminating fats from your diet, you get hit from the other side with too much sugar. During manufacturing fat free foods are often striped of the good fat, fiber, and nutrients, these elements are then replaced with sugar to make it taste good. If you try to cut out fat from your diet, you usually end up compensating for it by consuming too many calories-you just don't feel full. That's the beauty of eating "good" fats, you will be sure to get all the essential fatty acids needed to facilitate properly functioning cells. This will also help to keep blood sugar low, make your meals satiating, and slow down digestion.

Substandard, ruthless, and cruel fats

Saturated fat, trans fat, and fractionated oil are fats which are detrimental to your body's' cells. Trans fats and fractionated oils are ruthless and cruel, when competing for prime spots on your cells membrane, these ruthless fats crowd out the other essential fatty acids. In so doing, they compromise cellular function….how rude! The cell becomes less and less productive, and its ability to respond to the hormonal signals sent through the bloodstream is greatly decreased. Imagine that occurring in millions of cells at once. What do you think the effect would be? I bet you can figure it out…your body will send signals in the form of symptoms, headaches, moodiness, or low energy levels that may come and go.

If these symptoms are ignored, the next stages get more serious. As the ruthless overcrowding of your cells membrane occurs repeatedly over time, it will compromise the cell membrane function. This is now indicated in the development of Type II diabetes. In addition, consuming saturated fats, trans fats, and fractionated oils consistently is shown to be the cause of elevated cholesterol levels and an increased potential for developing degenerative diseases.

Trans fats are found in most of the processed foods sold prepackaged with a shelf life longer than most dogs' lifetimes! The major culprits include doughnuts, shortening, margarine, potato chips, cookies, and more! There are some naturally occurring trans fats, but most of them are man made trans fats…they're the worst! Trans fats are produced by whipping oil together with hydrogen gas…it's gross…and it doesn't jive with our body, so I steer clear of them. Manufacturers use this oil to make much of the processed food Americans eat today, but now that it's being proven how bad it is for you, it's being taken off the shelves (thankfully)!

Fractionated oils are another type of fat which is becoming popular in manufacturing various foods. The effects beneficial effects of fractionated oils are completely in the hands of those making the food, not those eating it; it produces an effect similar to that of trans fat. Trans fats and fractionated oils should be completely avoided. When food ingredients include partially hydrogenated oil or fractionated oil, it contains one of these two ruthless and cruel fats. Next time you eat a processed or ready made meal or snack, check the ingredient list and amount of trans fat, don't be surprised-it is everywhere!

Saturated fat is found in butter, full fat dairy products, and fatty cuts of red meat. It is also found in many nuts and seeds and tropical oils. I consider saturated fat a substandard fat; it doesn't have quite the nasty qualities of the other fats, but it's not doing you any favors either. Your body can process it, but it can still have the negative effects you would expect from a substandard fat. Saturated fat increases bad cholesterol (LDL), increases risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Although lean cuts of meat, lean poultry, low fat dairy products, free range eggs, wild game, wild caught fish, nuts, and seeds each have various levels of saturated fat. These are still excellent quality foods to eat. Saturated fat isn't as rude as those other fats, just be aware of the amount of saturated fat you eat and choose the lean forms of most meat and dairy. By doing this you will avoid eating too much saturated fat and too much total fat.

First-class and superior fats

Mono and poly unsaturated fats are fats you be sure to include in your diet. I'm sure you've hear the terms Omega-3, Omega-6, flax, flax oil, etc. These are the fats that make your cells happy! If everyone is raving about them, these first-class and superior fats must be good for something! These fats help promote cell permeability and help satisfy your appetite. They are the fats those rude and cruel ones are always trying to bully around.

Monounsaturated fats can be found in extra virgin olive oil, expeller pressed canola oil, almonds, almond butter, various nuts, olives, natural peanut butter, and avocadoes. They have a great effect on your body, because they maintain HDL cholesterol, which is good cholesterol, and lower the bad cholesterol (LDL). Consuming these fats will help prevent atherosclerosis (clogged arteries). Monounsaturated oils are also excellent for cooking. The chemical structure helps them to be stable at high temperatures, plus they taste good. If it helps keep my cholesterol in check and tastes great, I consider that a first class fat!

Polyunsaturated fats break down into essential fatty acids-those your body needs to function properly. They are found in cold water fish, flax, expeller pressed canola oil, walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Essential fatty acids are essential for healthy cells (I know you probably figured it out by the name!).

Essential fatty acids must be consumed through food (the body cannot make them), when eat the right amount of these, you'll ensure optimum cellular function. There is medical research supporting the positive health effects of these fats, they are implicated in helping everything from ADD to depression and even asthma. Wow, that is what I call a superior fat!

I am not sure if there have been any long term studies to prove how important/unimportant cell membrane function & fatty acids are to long-term health, or what the implications are for various degenerative diseases. Since I'm not a doctor or scientist, I can't say. But, when you observe different cultures with different eating patterns (like Mediterranean diet), it becomes evident that eating the right types of fat has a definite impact on long term health and vitality.

How much fat is enough?

We need both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat in order to maintain balanced chemistry within our bodies. Despite all the benefits of these fats, too much good fat can still lead to obesity and other health issues. To incorporate these good fats into your diet without overdoing it you can make salad dressing with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, drizzle 1 tablespoon of flax oil or flax meal on your salad then add red wine vinegar, eat three servings of cold water fish per week, or take a fish oil supplement. The superior fat oils such as flax seed should not be used for cooking however. The structure of the molecules will break down when exposed to high heat and render it ineffective. Remember to cook with extra virgin olive oil and other polyunsaturated oils.

Depending on your caloric intake, the amount of fat you eat will vary. Basically, 50% of total fat should come from polyunsaturated and 50% of total fat should come from monounsaturated. You can accomplish this easily by using extra virgin olive oil with all of your cooking or on salads. Use flax oil or ground flax seed in salads, oatmeal, or smoothies. If you want, have 1-2 tablespoons of flax oil everyday with juice or just down it. Flax is a great way to get your Omega-3 essential fatty acids. Your body will thank you for incorporating Omega-3 into your nutrition habits, but it takes time to see the effects.

If you're striving to reach a new goal this year, remember to follow the 3 steps to fitness, the 'Big Three', (mental training, good nutrition, effective exercise program) to get optimum results. If you do, you'll be living a healthy lifestyle and reach your goals with relative ease. Learn to be patient and persistent, and never give up! Set your goals, work hard, and most importantly…expect success!

Related Tags: nutrition, fat, omega 3, diet plan, good eating, flax oil, flax seed, healthy fats

Jessica Dawn has been studying health & fitness for over 10 years. She received a bachelors degree in Kinesiology (exercise science) and is passionate about sharing the benefits of fitness with everyone she knows.

Jessica is a health & fitness expert who shares her passion for wellness through online writing and teaching. For a free 5 Day Fitness Mastery Course, visit: www.visfitness.com In this course, Jessica will show you how to develop a lifestlye of health, vitality, and fitness. She answers the quesions you have about life-long weight control and resolves the roadblocks you may have faced in the past. Jessica's information elimates the despressing cycle of yo-yo dieting and empowers you to stay fit for life, develop a healthy body and life-long weight control.

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