The Benefits of Healthy Fats

February 2015 Newsletter
February 2015 Newsletter
February 12, 2015

The Benefits of Healthy Fats

the benefits of healthy fats

Mother’s milk is the perfect food for newborns. Babies thrive on its nourishment the first year/years of life. Breast milk contains mostly fat at 54 percent, next carbohydrates at 39 percent, and lastly protein at 7 percent. These provide the amino acids and fatty acid composition, especially for the brain, during the rapid growth that infants experience during their first 4-6 months of life. As babies grow, their caloric requirements change and solid foods are introduced. But do their macronutrient ratios change as they grow into adults? To examine this more closely, let’s look at the basic role of each nutrient in the body.

FATS: At nine calories per gram, fats provide the most concentrated form of energy in the body. Fats play a key role in supporting immune function, aid in the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, insulate internal organs, regulate body temperature and maintain healthy skin and hair. Our cell membranes are made of fat.

Healthy fats keep cell membranes permeable to allow nutrients in and waste products out of the cell. More than 70 percent of the dry weight of the brain is fat. Unfortunately, fats have gotten a bad reputation from the heart-healthy, low-fat diet gurus. However, as you’re about to read, all fats are not created equally.

There are four main types of fats. Each one performs a different function in the body.

  1. Saturated fats – Consist of long and medium-chains of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Because of this, they are more stable and not easily oxidized. They are the core structural fats of the human body, making up 75 to 80 percent of the fatty acids in most cells.1 Mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, use saturated fats for energy. Unlike what we’ve been told for decades, new studies show that saturated fat doesn’t lead to heart disease in most healthy individuals; in fact, it can actually improve lipid markers. Muscles are composed of saturated fat and protein. Consuming these macronutrients increases muscle mass. Saturated fats are obtained primarily from animal sources and coconut oil.
  2. Monounsaturated fats – Like saturated fats, monounsaturated fats also form the core structural fats in the body, increase muscle mass, lower LDL and raise HDL. They also improve insulin and glucagon sensitivity. These fats are obtained primarily from plant sources such as olive oil, avocados, and nuts. Monounsaturated fats are non-toxic, even in high doses.
  3. Polyunsaturated fats – These are the omega-3 fatty acids primarily found in seafood and omega-6 fatty acids found in seeds and their oils. These are considered “essential” fatty acids because the body can not manufacture them; they must be obtained from food. They help form cell membranes and aid in cell function. These fats should be consumed in a 1:1 to 1:2 ratio. Unlike saturated and monounsaturated fats, these are toxic in high amounts. Omega-6 fatty acids are unstable and highly inflammatory in excess. Our current diet is close to a 1:10 to 1:20 ratio. Processed and fast foods are loaded with Omega-6 fatty acids.
  4. Trans fats – There are two types of trans fats: natural and artificial. Conjugated linoleic acid, CLA, is a naturally occurring trans fat found in grass fed animals and, to a lesser degree, in grain fed animals. CLA is inversely associated with heart disease. CLA has been shown to help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of cancer. Artificial trans fats have a slightly different molecular structure but have dramatically different effects on the body.While natural trans fats reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, artificial trans fats have the adverse effects especially on cardiovascular disease. Artificial trans fats are found in highly processed, refined, and packaged foods.

After reviewing all the benefits of healthy fats, it’s easy to see why breast milk contains over half of its macronutrients in the form of fats. Babies need to it to grow and evidently adults need it for optimal health. Next time, we’ll look at the other macronutrients found in abundance in breast milk: carbohydrates.


References

1Jaminet, Paul, and Shou-Ching Jaminet. “The Safe Fats: SaFA and MUFA.” Perfect Health Diet: Regain Health and Lose Weight by Eating the Way You Were Meant to Eat. New York: Scribner, 2012. 133. Print.

“Child and Adolescent Nutrition.” The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) : Your Guide to Food Safety & Quality and Health & Nutrition for a Balanced Diet and Healthy Lifestyle. N.p., June 2006. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

Kresser, Chris. “Fats as Fuel: Give Yourself an Oil Change.” Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life. New York: Little, Brown, 2013. 94-117. Print.

Rosedale, Ron, and Carol Colman. “Why Good Fat Does a Body Good.” The Rosedale Diet. New York: HarperResource, 2004. 67. Print.

“The Carb-Sane Asylum.” The Carb-Sane Asylum. Evelyn Aka CarbSane, 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

Wolf, Robb. “Fat, Have a Seat, This May Take a Little While.” The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet. Las Vegas: Victory Belt, 2010. 102-116. Print.

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