What is healthy fat?

Updated: May 2

Fat taste delicious. It gives food an incredible mouthfeel, keeps us satiated and plays an integral part in the metabolic system of the body cells. Fat is also an essential macronutrient and is necessary for the normal function of hormones. But not all the fat we consume is good. The worse derives from seeds and legumes that commercially processed to extract fatty components. The best sources of fat are fruit and animals. Let us find out why.


Fat from fruit


We are talking about olives, coconut, avocado and cacao. Olive oil and avocado are rich in oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid. Olive oil contains 73% of this fatty acid, and avocado is not far behind - 71%. Monounsaturated fats are well known for their health benefits in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Coconut oil mainly contains medium-chain saturated fatty acids. This fat is metabolized differently by our bodies and assists in weight loss. Cacao butter is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid. It also contains a saturated fat called stearic fatty acid, known for its positive impact on cholesterol metabolism.


Fat from animals


Animal fat contains many saturated fatty acids, including stearic acid. Until recently, saturated fat was demonized. These days more and more research papers are getting published confirming that this type of dietary fat does not promote cardiovascular disease. In fact, animal fat is the highest nutrients and energy-dense food. In aboriginal communities, a kangaroo tail, which is the animal's fattiest part, was given to children to sufficiently nurture them. In my previous article, I wrote about a healthier fatty acids profile found in meat and dairy derived from pasture-raised and grass-fed animals. This fat is rich in vitamin K2 and precursors of vitamin A and E. Furthermore, laboratory research confirms that fat in wagyu beef is a fantastic source of monounsaturated oleic acid. This heart-healthy dietary fat can increase high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.


Fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These acids are called essential as they cannot be synthesized in the body. They are polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids well known for their anti-inflammatory properties. We do not consume enough of these fats.


What about nuts and seeds?


Our ancestors' diet had a proportion of polyunsaturated omega-6s to omega-3s as 1:1. Nowadays, we consume these fats in the proportion of 20:1. Unfortunately, when a diet is heavily skewed towards omega-6 fatty acids found in abundance in canola oil and nuts oil, these omega-6 fats become pro-inflammatory. For that reason, try to keep the ratio in a healthy range of 1:1 and do not consume oil made from nuts and seeds. You can still enjoy nuts and seeds in small quantities as part of a balanced diet.


Scientific references


Evidence from randomised controlled trials does not support current dietary fat guidelines: a systematic review and meta-analysis


Saturated Fats and Health: A Reassessment and Proposal for Food-Based Recommendations: JACC State-of-the-Art-Review


Characteristics and Health Benefit of Highly Marbled Wagyu and Hanwoo Beef


Monounsaturated Fatty Acids and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: Synopsis of the Evidence Available from Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses


Influence of stearic acid on cholesterol metabolism relative to other long-chain fatty acids


Mediterranean diet pyramid: a cultural model for healthy eating


Healthy fats: olive oil, avocado and grass-fed butter

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