Perhaps because many sources contribute to the name of FATS and not all fats are the same.
Terms like cholesterol, oils, saturated fats, trans-saturated ( hydrogenated ) fats, lipids, polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats etc. Oh, how confusing!!
Fats are an essential part of our diet. Like most people, I too fell for the ‘Low Fat Myth’ hook, line and sinker in the 80s & 90s, which was largely based on flawed science. Then I started to investigate this further and realized that fat was not the evil it was made out to be. However, not all fats are the same.
We have 3 major food groups: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Fats are an essential part of our dietary intake. To simplify the story, I like to focus on good fats and bad fats and why.
The so called ‘BAD’ fats consist largely of 2 groups : the vegetable or seed oils ie. the polyunsaturated , omega 6 oils (sunflower, safflower, canola (mainly from rapeseed), soybean, cottonseed , palm oil, soybean oil) and the trans-saturated (or hydrogenated ) fats, so called because they are the result of chemically treated ie industrialised vegetable oils. These are found in margarines, processed and packaged foods and fast foods. These fats have been shown to raise the LDL (bad ) cholesterol, contribute to heart disease , obesity, cancer growth, inflammatory conditions ie. many of the age related diseases. These fats are attractive to the food industry because they extend the shelf life and flavour stability of the packaged and processed foods. They are cheaper then the natural solid fats and liquid oils.
Unfortunately there is a lot of confusion in the media between the saturated and trans-saturated fats and are often presented as one and the same fat. Not so!
Saturated fats are an entirely different group of fats to the trans fats. The saturated fats are infact the ‘GOOD’ fats. These are the animal fats (preferably from those that are grass fed) ie. meats, eggs, cheese, dairy ( not the low fat type), butter, fish, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil. These fats are stable at high temperatures. We do not make these fats in our body, they are essential to our health and so we need to get them from our diet. Why are they good fats? Well, they are another fuel for our energy production. This fuel is slower burning then sugar thus keeps our motor running for a lot longer, keeps us satisfied and decreases hunger. Good fats do not stimulate insulin production like excess carbohydrates do and so do not cause obesity. But, apart from being a good fuel, they provide the body with many other benefits. They are a source of the HDL(good) cholesterol, vitamins such as A,D,E,K are found in good fats, cholesterol is the mother of our hormones, about 70 % of our brain is fat and in fact it appears that our brain’s support cells churn out their own cholesterol, needed for memory and learning. They have an anti-inflammatory effect and good fats do not make us fat. If we eat too much of the saturated (good fats) the body excretes any excess from the gut, unlike with excess carbohydrates or protein.
So, in conclusion, trans-saturated fats and saturated fats are very different groups of fats with very different and opposing health consequences. Do not be afraid of the good saturated fats. They do not make you fat. Let’s get back to grandma’s cooking !
By Dr Jolanta Paszkiewicz
Dr. Jolanta Paszkiewicz is an integrative medical doctor with almost 20 years experience in treating patients holistically. Her particular interests are hormonal problems, nutritional approach to health, women’s and men’s health issues.