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Saturated Fats

QUESTION: Are fats and saturated fats from plants as bad for you than those from animals. There is a history of heart problem in my family and i try to watch my saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium.

ANSWER: Hi Shelly,

Thanks for writing us!

Here is some explanation about fats:

Eating low fat food doesn抰 mean we should give up fat entirely, but we do need to educate ourselves about which fats should ideally be avoided and which ones are more heart-healthy. Let抯 be clear: we need fat in our diet. As the most concentrated source of calories (nine calories per gram of fat compared with four calories per gram for protein and carbohydrates), it helps supply energy. Fat provides linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid for growth, healthy skin and metabolism. It also helps absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K). And, face it, fat adds flavor and is satisfying, making us feel fuller, keeping hunger at bay.

Although all fats have the same amount of calories, some are more harmful than others: saturated fats and trans fats in particular.

* Saturated fats:

These fats are derived from animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs. But they are also found in some plant-based sources such as coconut, palm and palm kernel oils. These fats are solid at room temperature. Saturated fats clog our arteries and directly raise total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Avoid them as much as possible.

* Trans Fats or Hydrogenated Fats

Trans fats are actually unsaturated fats, but they can raise total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while also lowering HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Trans fats are used to extend the shelf life of processed foods, typically cookies, cakes, fries and donuts. Any item that contains 揾ydrogenated oil?or 損artially hydrogenated oil?likely contains trans fats. Hydrogenation is the chemical process that changes liquid oils into solid fats. The tide is turning against trans fats. Since January 2006, all food manufacturers are required to list trans fat content on food labels.
Unsaturated fats
Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are two types of unsaturated fatty acids. They are derived from vegetables and plants.

* Monounsaturated fats:

Are liquid at room temperature but begin to solidify at cold temperatures. This type of fat is preferable to other types of fat and can be found in olives, olive oil, nuts, peanut oil, canola oil and avocados. Some studies have shown that these kinds of fats can actually lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and maintain HDL (good) cholesterol.
* Polyunsaturated fats:

Are also liquid at room temperature. These are found in safflower, sesame, corn, cottonseed and soybean oils. This type of fat has also been shown to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, but too much can also lower your HDL cholesterol.

* Omega-3 fatty acids:

These include an 揺ssential?fatty acid, which means it's critical for our health but cannot be manufactured by our bodies. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fish, flax seed, soy, and walnuts. These fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and also boost our immune systems.

So read those food labels carefully and choose your fats wisely. And as a rule of thumb, liquid fats are better for you than solid fats.

With gratitude,

Ego Invenio

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you, but i wanted to know specifically if there was any difference between the saturated fat in animals and the saturated fat in plants. Specifically coconut and other nuts.

Hi Shelly,

Coconut oil and oil from other nuts is made up of around 90% saturated fat, 6% monounsaturated fat, and 2% polyunsaturated fat. Differing from other highly saturated fats however, coconut oil is mostly made up of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs).

Why does that matter? Well, MCFAs are more easily digested and absorbed in the body than other fats, and for this reason they are often used in enteral feeding formula for critically ill patients.

Due to the MCFA makeup of coconut oil, some suggest it is therefore different from other saturated fats, and as a result it doesn抰 have the same 憉nhealthy?effects associated with regular saturated fats.

Trust this will answer you question.

With gratitude,

Ego Invenio
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