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Ultimate Guide to Nutrients: Unsaturated Fats

All fats, whether saturated or unsaturated, contain 9 calories per gram. This is more than double that of protein or carbs, which contain 4 calories per gram. Therefore, while healthy sources of fat are essential to human health, they should be consumed in moderation.

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Wow, it’s been a while since I posted a nutrient blog. The last time was on January 25, and that was only a review, which you can find HERE. So, let’s jump right back in, with a short reminder of what this series is about.

This series is designed to break down each essential nutrient to the human body. When we define “ESSENTIAL”, we mean the human body CANNOT make it on it’s own. Therefore, we get it from outside sources of food or supplements or the sun, in the case of Vitamin D.

Thus far, I’ve covered the following:

And that’s where we’ll continue on today, with Unsaturated fats… FIRST…let’s talk briefly about fats, or lipids, before we hit unsaturated fats.

Fats and oils fall into a class of nutrient known as “lipids”. By definition, lipids are:

relatively water-insoluble, organic molecules consisting mostly of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. In other words, lipids are hydrophobic (“water fearing”).

Lipids are typically one of the following

  • Oils – These substances are liquid at room temperature – such as olive oil.
  • Fats – These substances are solid at room temperature – like butter.

The major categories of lipids include:

  • fatty acids – we will be focusing on these types of lipids
  • triglycerides
  • phospholipids
  • sterols
  • fat soluble vitamins – these vitamins will be discussed later on in the series.

Now that we remember the definition of a fat or lipid, what exactly is an unsaturated fat?

REMEMBER, Fatty acids are broken down further into 2 other groups, based on the chemical bonds between the carbon atoms in the chain. These bonds can either be single or double bonds. These bonds affect the properties and characteristics of the fatty acid.:

  1. Saturated Fatty Acid – SFA – have all single bonds between the carbon. Because there are no double bonds in the chain, SFA’s are rigid and inflexible, and completely surrounded or SATURATED with hydrogen. This rigid nature makes them quite dense, and, therefore solid at room temperature.
  2. Unsaturated Fatty Acid – UFA – have one or more double bonds. The existence of double bonds, makes the UFA’s flexible or bendable. It also means there are fewer hydrogen atoms, so the UFA are not surrounded or saturated by hydrogen, therefore, they are UNSATURATED. The flexibility of these acids make them highly unorganized, preventing them from coming together, making them liquid in most cases.
    • MonoUnsaturated Fatty Acid – MUFA – have one double bond – These fats are liquid at room temperature, but solidify when refrigerated. (2)
    • PolyUnsaturated Fatty Acid – PUFA – have two or more double bonds – liquid at room temperature and upon refrigeration.
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Image source – (1)

All fats, whether saturated or unsaturated, contain 9 calories per gram. This is more than double that of protein or carbs, which contain 4 calories per gram. Therefore, while healthy sources of fat are essential to human health, they should be consumed in moderation.

What are the health benefits of mono-unsaturated fats (MUFA) and where can they be found?  (2)

  • Oleic Acid is the most common MUFA. It is commonly found in:
    • olive oil, nuts
    • avocados
    • whole milk.
    • Almonds
    • Peanuts
    • Cashews
    • Eggs
    • Red meat
  • Protection from heart disease
  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Helps with weight loss
  • Improves mood
  • Strengthens bones
  • Shown to reduce risk of cancer

What are the health benefits of poly-unsaturated fats (PUFA) and where can they be found? (3)

  • Poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) include omega-3 fatty acids, which have been scientifically proven to improve health. Due to the complex nature of Omega fats, I will be doing a separate article on Omega-3’s but for now, here are some healthy sources of PUFA and omega-3:
    • Cold water fish
    • Fatty fish
    • Walnuts
    • Peanuts
    • Almonds
    • Olive oil
    • Flaxseed
  • Lowers triglycerides
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Improves depression
  • Improves ADHD

THE UGLY TRUTH ABOUT VEGETABLE OILS

You’ll hear many in the field of nutrition, as well as the U.S.A. federal government push the supposed “health benefits” of VEGETABLE OILS. While it’s true that vegetable oils contain HIGH amounts of PUFA’s, they are EXTREMELY unhealthy. Here’s a short video revealing the UGLY TRUTH about vegetable oil…

STOP EATING THESE OILS IMMEDIATELY… (DR. AXE)

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In the following video, Dr. Axe talks about the oils you should NEVER consume, and gives you 5 alternatives. The video is on the long side, 16:24. You can either watch it, or I’ve summed it up for you below.

Why avoid them? They are linked to:

  • Inflammation
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Weight gain

WHICH OILS SHOULD YOU AVOID AT ALL COSTS? VEGETABLE OILS! – Including anything labeled vegetable oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil

  • GMO ingredients -HIGHLY TOXIC/DANGEROUS!
    • They kill off the GOOD bacteria in your gut!!! The fewer of these little critters you have, the weaker your immune system. You’ll also absorb fewer vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
  • Cause kidney/liver problems – clogs your liver (liver stagnation) and liver toxicity. (BTW…the liver is very resilient, and if you actually start exhibiting symptoms of liver disease, it’s “really far gone” as Dr. Axe says below)
  • heart trouble
    • clogs arteries
  • Hypertension/strokes
  • exposed to Trans-fats
    • can cause weight gain (belly fat)

WHICH OILS SHOULD YOU START CONSUMING RIGHT AWAY?

  • Coconut oil –
    • Contains MCT’s – medium-chain triglycerides – they are burned as energy
    • Contains lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid – anti-microbial – kills off bad bacteria and pathogens
    • least likely to be stored as fat
  • REAL lard – (Animal fat/tallow) –
    • ancient ancestors always used this healthy fat.
    • Great for skin
    • Use as a skin moisturizer
    • great for cooking, sautéing
    • (See my article on SATURATED FATS for health benefits.)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
    • High in polyphenols
    • Combats heart disease
    • Helps prevent weight gain
    • High in anti-oxidants
    • TIP- IF IT DOESN’T SMELL LIKE OLIVES OR FRESH HERBS, IT’S PROBABLY FAKE OLIVE OIL – AS THERE ARE A LOT OF FAKE OLIVE OILS ON THE MARKET.
  • Butter/Ghee (which is clarified butter)
    • Used throughout India in Ayurvedic medicine to help absorb fat-soluble nutrients.
    • High in the healthy saturated fat butyric acid – good for your colon and gut.
    • For more info on the health benefits of butter FOLLOW THIS LINK
  • Avocado oil
    • High in Omega-9 fats or MUFA
    • High in magnesium
    • GREAT for cooking – VERY high heat threshold.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Don’t be afraid of fat, whether it’s saturated or unsaturated. Just make sure you get your fat from some of the healthy sources above. Remember the high caloric content, so consume in moderation.

Avoid the liquid vegetable oils listed above, and as always, source your fats from WHOLE FOODS as much as possible.

Love, God bless and Namaste my friends.

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SOURCES:

  1. McGuire, Michelle; Beerman, Kathy A.. Nutritional Sciences: From Fundamentals to Food. Cengage Textbook. Kindle Edition.
  2. https://draxe.com/monounsaturated-fat/
  3. https://www.livestrong.com/article/346100-what-are-the-benefits-of-polyunsaturated-fat/

 

About Tamara Hoerner (1002 Articles)
I am a student at Hawthorn University working toward a MS degree in Holistic Nutrition. For me, the name Purple Almond symbolizes “Good, nutritious, whole food bringing light and life to the body, awakening the inherent healing mechanisms within.”

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