Sure, it would be nice and easy if everything could be divided into good and evil, but that’s just not life. Even in nutrition the simple calculation does not work out. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to demonize supposed bad guys like fat in a generalized way.
In general, fats are divided into polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids according to their chemical composition, and each has different functions and effects on the body. You can find out which fats are your very best friends, which should remain casual acquaintances and which are enemies that you should banish from your life here.
Why is fat important?
Fats, also called lipids, together with carbohydrates and proteins, form the three basic building blocks of our diet. These are often referred to as macronutrients, or macros, the body’s main energy sources. With 9 kilocalories per gram, fats provide more than twice as many calories as proteins and carbohydrates, which contain only 4 calories per gram.
Therefore linseed oil with low-fat curd melts the fat
Fats are so-called flavour carriers, which means that many aromas only develop properly with their help. However, they take on other important tasks in your organism: they are involved in the structure of the cell membrane, serve as a protective layer for the inner organs against external influences and are needed for the production of hormones and enzymes.
In addition, they are essential for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, because only through fat can vitamins A, D, E, K be released from food and absorbed in the small intestine.
Which fatty acids are there?
When we speak of fats, we usually refer to fat acids . There are three kinds:
- Saturated fatty acids
- Monounsaturated fatty acids
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids (= essential fatty acids: Omega-3 and Omega-6)
The difference between the fatty acids is the length of the carbon chain and the number of double bonds between two carbon atoms. Saturated fatty acids, also called the bad fatty acids, have no double bond, so they consist of a simple string of carbon atoms.
Unsaturated fatty acids, or the good fatty acids, on the other hand, have double bonds. Polyunsaturated fatty acids contain at least two. The more double bonds the lower the degree of saturation. However, a higher number of double bonds also means that the fat has a lower melting point and is more likely to be in a liquid state at room temperature (e.g. olive oil). Such so-called fatty oils cannot be converted so quickly into body fat.
The structures that are formed by polyunsaturated fatty acids are sometimes so complex that the body cannot form them itself. These are called essential, i.e. vital fatty acids that have to be taken in with food.
Why are saturated fatty acids considered unhealthy?
Saturated fatty acids are mainly found in dairy products. © Goodmoments / Shutterstock.com
They are said to be the source of all evil and were long held responsible for fatty liver and heart attacks. In the meantime, however, the saturated fatty acids have been largely rehabilitated by science and are no longer consistently considered to be the villains. So they are not harmful – as long as they land on your plate in a healthy amount.
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However, since too many saturated fatty acids are consumed in the western diet, including in the form of cheese, cream, milk and sausage, the German Nutrition Society (DGE ) to replace saturated fatty acids with polyunsaturated fatty acids. A too high supply of saturated fatty acids promotes overweight, high blood pressure and thus cardiovascular diseases.
Why are unsaturated fatty acids healthier?
In the category “healthy fats” you are quite right with unsaturated fatty acids. This includes all fatty acids with at least one double bond between two carbon molecules. Avocados, nuts or vegetable oils such as rapeseed and linseed oil provide particularly many of these healthy fatty acids. But why are unsaturated fatty acids healthier than saturated fatty acids? In contrast to saturated fatty acids, they contain good cholesterol. But in addition later more.
Vital fats: Essential fatty acids
Polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 occupy a special position among unsaturated fatty acids. These essential fatty acids prove: fat is essential for life. Because without them, important processes in the organism would not function. Since the body cannot produce them itself, they must be supplied with food. The essential fatty acids are divided into omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.
Among the most important representatives of omega-6 fatty acids is linoleic acid, while omega-3 fatty acids mainly include the following:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA )
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA )
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA )
By the way: ALA is a precursor to EPA and DHA – the latter can be formed by the body itself, if sufficient ALA is present.
Omega-3 fatty acids are mainly found in nuts, fish and avocados. © Yulia Furman / Shutterstock.com
Your body needs omega-3 and omega-6 for the production of hormones and enzymes. They also protect the heart, strengthen the immune system and have a positive effect on blood pressure and blood fat levels. At least if you observe the correct ratio, because the two fatty acids influence each other.
The DGE recommends a ratio between 2:1 and 5:1 (omega-6 : omega-3). In western countries, however, far more omega fatty acids are consumed, which brings the ratio to around 8:1. However, too much omega-6 can have negative effects. Too high a concentration leads to inflammation and vasoconstriction.
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Easy to lose due to Omega-3
Fat does not make you fat. Quite the opposite. If you bet on the right fats, they even help you lose weight. Omega-3 improves insulin sensitivity, which means that less blood sugar is needed to regulate blood sugar levels. The more constant the blood sugar level, the longer the feeling of satiety lasts and you are spared from ravenous appetite. The best conditions for losing a few kilos.
The healthy fatty acid also promotes muscle building, because it helps to convert protein taken in from food into the body’s own protein. This is needed in the muscles. And with more muscles, your body burns more calories even when at rest.
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Hands off trans fats!
Trans fatty acids, also called trans fats, are unsaturated fatty acids, but they do not have any positive effects on your body. On the contrary: A too high supply even has a negative effect, since this increases the risk of a fat metabolism disorder and coronary heart disease.
Thus, trans fatty acids unfavourably alter the ratio of good to bad cholesterol in the body and prevent the use of the important omega-3 fatty acids.
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The so-called hardened greases are mainly used in industrial processing. As the name suggests, liquid oils can be used to make solid products, such as margarine. Thus trans fats are found in many finished products such as frozen pizza and ice cream. Especially frying fat contains large amounts of this unhealthy fat.
In short, everything that has found its way into the deep fryer will fall through. This includes not only chips but also sweet baked goods such as donuts or croissants. If things weren’t complicated enough, trans fats are also found naturally in milk fat and beef fat.
However, since small amounts have hardly any negative effects and regular consumption is more harmful to health, every mini-sin can be ironed out in the long term.
Wrong fats: chips, chicken wings and co. should really be the exception. © Natasha Breen / Shutterstock.com
The vortex of cholesterol
In connection with fat you will come across one word again and again: cholesterol. This is a fat-like substance that is important for the body in many places. The body can produce cholesterol itself. It is needed, for example, to build the cell membrane or for hormone production.
Like other nutrients, cholesterol is transported by the blood, for which it combines with proteins. There are compounds with higher protein content and compounds with higher fat content. So there is a difference between good HDL -cholesterol (HDL = high density lipoprotein, less fat more protein) and poor LDL -cholesterol (LDL = low density lipoprotein, more fat less protein).
The LDL -Cholesterol is known to “stick” to the walls of the blood vessels and even clog them. The good HDL can the bad LDL -Cholesterol again.
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An excessive intake of saturated fatty acids leads to an increase in bad cholesterol, while good cholesterol decreases. Unsaturated fatty acids however provide for a higher HDL concentration and a lower LDL value. Only Omega 6 reduces both HDL and LDL . It is therefore important to focus on omega-3 fatty acids.
These high-fat foods should be on your dietary plan
The German Society for Nutrition recommends covering 30 percent of the daily energy intake with fats, which corresponds to about 66 grams for a woman. The rule of thumb here: no trans fats, little saturated fatty acids, but sufficient polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially omega-3 fatty acids.
Other excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids (expressed in grams per 100 grams)
- Linseed oil (53)
- Walnut oil (12.2)
- Rapeseed oil (9.6)
- Linseed (16,7)
- Walnut kernels (7.83)
- cream horn (5,71)
- Herring (4.03)
- Sprats (3.89)
- Salmon (3,57)
- Mackerel (2.32)
In addition, the following tips will help you to consume more good fats:
- Cooking yourself: This way you avoid hidden fat traps and can use good fats.
- Choose cold-pressed vegetable oils such as linseed oil or rapeseed oil.
- Avoid hardened fats such as margarine, butter, as well as finished products and fried foods.
You should eat these fats every day
Fats are important if they are the right ones. Without a sufficient supply of fat, many processes in your body will not function properly. 30 percent of your energy intake should therefore come from healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids.