What is fat?
Fat is a concentrated source of energy. One gram of fat equals nine calories.
How many grams of fat do I need?
Fat is just as important as proteins and carbohydrates for good health. We need at least 20 grams (four teaspoons) of fat per day. In fact, fat deficiencies can cause or worsen many conditions that plague modern society, such as asthma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, and even cancers have been linked to fat deficiencies.
Every cell in your body needs fat. Fats regulate the body’s thermostat and protect vital organs.
I recommend my clients not to exceed 15 per cent of their daily calorie intake from fat.
Some of the most important information about fat (so parents read this information carefully!)
Fat cells can increase about a thousand-fold in volume. They can also multiply. When fat cells expand to their outer limits, which happens after a significant weight gain, fat cells divide and form new fat cells.
This is where we have a big problem. You need to understand that when a new fat cell is created, you have it for life. This is why it’s so difficult to lose weight when you have become overweight or obese.
So, my advice to you is to avoid this process in the first place. Avoid gaining too much weight. It doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for overweight or obese people to lose the fat, however, and it doesn’t mean that you need to watch these cells because they are ready for expansion.
What is all the talk about good fat and bad fat?
There are three kinds of natural fat: Saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.
Don’t be scared by the names, I will explain which ones are good and which ones are bad. Remember, whether good or bad, fat is nine calories per gram.
Saturated fats are usually of animal origin. Saturated fat raises the level of cholesterol in the blood. Raised blood cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Monounsaturated fat is found in olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and in most nuts and nut butters. This type of fat does not cause cholesterol to increase.
Vegetable fats are generally unsaturated.
Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Two major categories of polyunsaturated fats are Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. These fats are extremely healthful. They can protect against sudden death from heart attack. They can also help a person lower his or her triglycerides.
Omega-3s are ‘good fats’ used by the body to produce hormone-like substances with anti-inflammatory effects. The best sources of Omega-3s are fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, and rainbow trout, among others. Canola oil, walnuts, and flaxseed also contain some Omega-3s.
Omega-6s can reduce the bad LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels. However, too much Omega-6 intake can also reduce the levels of good HDL cholesterol. Therefore, limit your intake to ten per cent of the total calories consumed daily.
The best source of Omega-6s is: Meat, eggs, dairy, oils from corn, cottonseed, linseed, peanut, poppy seed, pumpkin seed, safflower, soybean, sunflower seed, and wheat germ.
So what happens if you have too much cholesterol in your blood?
If you have too much cholesterol in your bloodstream, it can collect in the blood vessel walls causing these ‘pipes’ to become narrower. This can clog the blood vessels and keep blood from moving freely, the way it's supposed to.
When clogging gets worse, it can cause damage to the heart, creating heart attacks and to the brain by causing strokes.
Cholesterol is not only an adult problem but also affects children.
You have two types of cholesterol:
HDL (good cholesterol – to remember this, think of H for healthy) and LDL (bad cholesterol).
The problem is that most cholesterol is LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.
LDL is more dangerous because it is more likely to clog blood vessels because it carries the cholesterol away from the liver and into the bloodstream, where it can stick to the blood vessels.
HDL (high-density lipoprotein, good cholesterol), on the other hand, carries the cholesterol back to the liver where it is broken down.
What’s the fuss about cholesterol?
Cholesterol is like a wax. It's found in many foods, in your bloodstream, and in all your body's cells. Most of the body’s cholesterol is manufactured in the liver. The American Heart Association recommends that we limit our average daily cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams, less is even better.
What are the factors that influence cholesterol levels?
Foods that are high in saturated fats, such as palm and coconut oils will raise your cholesterol levels. Avocados which are about 90% fat, and other fat foods of vegetable origin can lower the cholesterol levels. Examples of foods that contain high levels of cholesterol are eggs and red meat, lard and shrimp. These foods can significantly raise blood cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol levels tend to increase as we become older.
Overweight people are more likely to have high blood cholesterol levels. A greater risk of increased cholesterol levels occurs when that extra weight is centered in the abdominal region, as opposed to the legs or buttocks.
Men tend to have higher LDL levels and lower HDL levels than women do, especially before the age of 50. After 50, when women are in their post- menopausal years, decreasing amounts of estrogen are thought to cause the LDL levels to rise.
Some people are genetically predisposed to having higher levels of cholesterol. This tendency towards higher cholesterol levels is often passed on from parents to their children.
Diabetes can lower HDL levels, increase triglycerides and accelerate the development of atherosclerosis. High blood pressure, or hypertension, can also hasten the development of atherosclerosis, and some medications used to treat it can increase LDL and triglycerides and decrease HDL levels.
High levels of stress can raise total cholesterol levels, and cigarette smoking, which can lower a person's HDL level as much as 15 per cent. Strenuous exercise can increase HDL (good cholesterol) levels and decrease LDL levels. Exercise can also help reduce body weight, which, in turn, can help reduce cholesterol.
Blood cholesterol vs. dietary cholesterol
Our bodies make all the cholesterol we need: 85 per cent of your blood cholesterol is produced by your body. The other 15 per cent comes from our nutrition.
Why is there so much talk about cholesterol in our diet? Because people eat too much food with high cholesterol and saturated fat. The results have been associated with atherosclerosis and the build-up of plaques that can narrow or block blood vessels.
So what happens when this occurs? Arteries become smaller due to the wax- like buildup and a heart attack can occur. The blocked artery can also develop rough edges. This can cause plaques to break off and travel, obstructing blood vessels elsewhere in the body. A blocked blood vessel in the brain can trigger a stroke.
What are some foods that have a lot of cholesterol?
Meat, eggs, butter, cheese, and milk have cholesterol. Fruits, vegetables, and grains don't have any cholesterol. In addition to cholesterol, it's a good idea to limit the amount of saturated fats and trans fats in your diet, which can raise cholesterol levels in your blood. They are most often found in high-cholesterol foods, some margarines, and many store-bought baked goods like cookies, crackers, and snack cakes.
How can I control my cholesterol?
Exercise helps to control the amount of cholesterol in your blood and keep you healthy. Follow a low-saturated fat, low-cholesterol diet. Smoking lowers HDL cholesterol levels and increases the tendency for blood to clot so try and cut down or quit.
In conclusion you need to know your fats!
There are only four kinds of fats: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, and trans.
Saturated fats: The ‘bad’ fats, which are known to raise blood cholesterol levels.
Monounsaturated fats: The ‘good’ fats, which can lower blood cholesterol levels.
Polyunsaturated fats: The ‘in-between fats’, which have some good and some bad properties.
Trans fatty acid: A man-made fat, which is worse for you than saturated fats. These are made when certain oils are heated (see below) and are also present in foods that contain hydrogenated oils, such as margarine. If you do use margarine then buy one that is non-hydrogenated. Read food labels and avoid all products that contain hydrogenated oils.
To summarize: Use more olive oil, avoid tropical oils, eliminate hydrogenated oils and trans fatty acids from your diet. These are simple steps towards good health.
Trans fat should be completely eliminated from everyone's diet – no exceptions!
The brain and central nervous system are largely constructed of fat. Even mild deficiencies are associated with mental and nervous disorders, from mild forgetfulness to schizophrenia1 and from peripheral neuropathy to multiple sclerosis. And just as with your other cells (though far more slowly) your body builds brain cells and wraps myelin (fat) around your nerves every day, thus requiring a steady supply of fat.