There are no two ways about it, fats is an absolute necessity in any diet plan regardless of your goal.
Essential fatty acids are called “essential” because the body cannot produce them by itself. It is therefore essential that we obtain them through nutritional sources, i.e. food.
We must nevertheless make a distinction between good fats and bad fats.
Good fats serve a veritable multitude of roles throughout the body.
Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, play a role in everything from the maintenance of correct brain function to reducing inflammation in our joints and tendons.
These fatty acids are typically sourced from oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardine, and they can also be obtained from a limited number of plant sources such as flax seed.
Omega-9 fatty acids such as those found in extra virgin olive oil play a crucial role in preventing heart disease and increasing longevity.
These polyunsaturated are commonly attributed to the long lives enjoyed by Mediterranean populations.
Unfortunately there is another slightly less attractive sides of the coin.
Omega-6 fatty acids such as those found in vegetable oils like canola and sunflower oil can actually have a detrimental effect on the human body.
These fatty acids are known to be extremely inflammatory, contributing to all manner of nasty almonds such as osteoarthritis and even pulmonary heart disease.
Although these polyunsaturated fats are essential and should not be avoided completely, it is important to maintain a healthy ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Most medical research tends to suggest that the optimal ratio between these two fatty acids is around 4:1 in favor of omega-3.
Perhaps the obvious of them all are hydrogenated fats and oils, also known as trans fats.
Hydrogenation is a process that involves adding hydrogen into omega-6 oils for the purpose of increasing shelf life and making them easier to transport.
Hydrogenated fats are typically solid at room temperature, which makes them a very common ingredients in spreadable butter substitutes and baked goods. The longer shelf life makes these products far more commercially viable than their more natural counterparts.
These fats are by no means essential, and serve no benefit to the human body. Quite the opposite in fact.
The hardness of hydrogenated fats and the rigidity of their molecular structure causes them to contribute greatly to conditions such as atherosclerosis or the hardening of arteries.
These fats also have what can be described as a “bent” molecular structure, making them very difficult for the body to metabolise. This typically leads them to remain in the bloodstream, becoming oxidised and contributing to things like heart disease and even numerous forms of cancer.
It should be quite apparent promote we have discussed that not all fats are made equal.
Some fats are a truly essential component of any healthy eating plan, so maximising the “good” and avoiding the “ugly” can go a long way to ensuring your long-term health.