The book is a very technical read at times, and currently I am on the section about fats. I am understanding it for the most part. I decided to do a blog post about the different types of fat. After all, our bodies need fat, especially the essential fatty acids. Our bodies also need fat to process fat-soluble, versus water-soluble, vitamins which include Vitamins A, D, E, and K. All the information below is taken from the book, pages 107 through 113).
There are two major groups of fat: good fats and bad fats. The key to healthy fat consumption is to choose from good fats and to not get the majority of your fats from the bad fats group. Healthy or good fat may seem like an oxymoron, but it is when we consume high percentages and amounts of fat that we increase our chances of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases as well as obesity. I have included mnemonic devices to help you remember whether you should avoid or embrace a certain type of fat.
BAD FATS (BEWARE)
Trans Fatty Acids or Trans Fat (TFA) -- Consider these the bad boys of the different types of fat. Your body can only suffer from this type. This fat occurs very rarely in nature, found only in trace amounts in dairy products. Perhaps its unnatural quality is what makes this fat so terrible. TFAs are made when vegetable oils are hydrogenated, so avoid anything with hydrogenated oil as an ingredient. This fat is found notoriously in junk food, sweets (cake, pies, cookies, margarine), fast food, and fried food. Avoid this fat like the plague, read labels and watch out for hydrogenated in the ingredients list, and greatly limit your consumption of fast food, fried food, and junk food, if you don't eliminate these types of food at all. To help you remember the bad quality of this fat, let TFA stand for terrible fat, avoid. Not only does this fat raise bad cholesterol (LDL), but it simultaneously lowers good cholesterol (HDL). To remember the types of cholesterol, remember that the H in HDL stands for healthy and the L in LDL stands for lousy.
Saturated Fat or Saturated Fatty Acids (SFA) -- Saturated fat is another scary fat. This fat is solid at room temperature and can raise your bad cholesterol (LDL) and clog your arteries, leading to a higher chance of heart attack and stroke. They come primarily from animal sources, including red meat, poultry, and whole dairy products. Two plant sources that have high amounts of saturated fat are palm oil and coconut oil, two ingredients found in some cakes and candies. If you are a vegetarian, you greatly decrease your consumption of saturated fat, unless you eat coconut oil all day. Even if you are not a vegetarian, you can decrease your consumption of this fat by eating a significantly lower amount of meat. Also, you can be vegetarian and still eat junk food, increasing your consumption of TFAs. So throw away the junk food and fried foods. Save the coconut oil for your hair : ). Although not as bad as TFAs, SFAs should be avoided with almost as much fervor. If you never consume saturated fat, your body will not miss it. For SFAs, think scary fat, avoid.
GOOD FATS (EMBRACE IN MODERATION)
Just because these are good fats, found in things like olive oil, nuts, and seeds, does not mean you can go and eat to your heart's content. Fat should be less than 30 percent of your caloric intake, but it can be a bit higher as long as its good fats you're racking up on.
Polyunsaturated Fats or Fatty Acids (PUFA) -- In my opinion, this fat can be best termed as very confusing. It actually involves a little math. It can be good if eaten in the correct ratio, but if not eaten in the correct ratio, it can be harmful. What do I mean by ratio? Well, PUFAs actually include two types of fat, Omega-6 and Omega-3. These two subcategories are known as essential fatty acids (EFAs). When you think EFA, think just what is stands for, essential fatty acid, because I really couldn't put it better myself. Because it is essential, you have to get sources of both these fats. This is also why you should avoid any diet that restricts the consumption of all fats, including PUFAs/EFAs and MUFA (see below), because all fat is not created equal, contrary to what many might say or think. The key to consuming PUFA correctly, is that although you should eat more Omega-6 sources than Omega-3, the ratio should be between three and ten times more Omega-6 than Omega-3. Most Americans consume ten to twenty times more Omega-6 than Omega-3.
The get a better balance, eat more Omega-3 and watch out for how much Omega-6 you eat. Unless you eat a lot of fish, and I would not recommend that since fish has mercury and cholesterol, focus on healthy sources of Omega-6 and Omega-3. When people think the EFAs, they usually think of fish. Fish does have high amounts of EFAs, specifically Omega-3, which we are in need of in higher proportion to Omega-6. But if you don't eat fish, like me, rest assured that there are both animal and plant sources of Omega-6 and Omega-3. The ratio should remain between three and ten times more Omega-6 than Omega-3. Any higher, and you may increase your chances of certain health risks.
Sources of EFAs, vegetarian sources in italics.
Poly (Omega-3) Sources: flaxseeds/oil, soy/oil, walnuts, fish oil, canola oil, mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna, other fish
Poly (Omega-6) Sources: poultry, corn oil, cottonseed oil, grape seed oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil
When I think PUFAs, I think problem understanding but favorable, accept
Monounsaturated Fats of Fatty Acids (MUFA) -- This fat became widely popular and studied more when it was shown that people in certain parts of the world that eat high amounts of this fat (primarily people of the Mediterranean) have a longer life expectancy and lower incidences of heart disease. Unlike PUFAs/EFAs, there is not much to say about this fat other than that is a good fat. It is found in olive oil (eaten widely in the Mediterranean). So although you can save the coconut oil (a saturated fat) for your hair and skin only, olive oil is good for the body. Buy two bottles. One for the kitchen and one for the bathroom. Other good sources include avocados, walnuts, flaxseed oil, and canola oil*. When you see MUFA, think Mediterranean useful fat, accept
*The more I read, the more I am coming across conflicting and controversial information concerning canola oil. I plan to do an in-depth future blog post after more research. To get an idea of the controversy, ask yourself "If there is no such thing as a canola plant, [and there isn't] where does canola oil come from?"
Review/ConclusionTFAs should be avoided like the plague. Their sources (fried foods -- esp. french fries -- junk food, sweets, and other foods containing hydrogenated oil) are all bad for you anyway. Eat whole foods, food in their natural state, and you should have no problems.
SFAs should be avoided with almost as much fervor as TFAs. If you are an omnivore, greatly reduce your consumption of animal products such as red meat and dairy products, notorious sources of SFAs. If you are a vegetarian, good for you! But avoid coconut and palm oil, and don't make up in TFAs (as in junk food and fried food) what you are missing in SFAs
PFAs or EFAs should be studied more. I suggest you do your own research and look for even more sources than the ones I listed, so that you can get the ratio correct and so that you can get healthy sources, preferably from plants. lLook for alternative for Omega-3 sources if you don't eat fish or don't like eating fish.
MFAs should be embraced. If you ever get scared of fat or if you hear or read that all fat is bad, think of the people in the Mediterranean. They live long, healthy lives in spite of, or perhaps thanks to, their higher consumption of MFA. We could learn a thing or two from them.
P.S. Buy or check out from your library The Okinawa Program. I am not done reading it yet, but I already recommend it highly.