Nutrition 102: McFatty Fat Fat

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Posted by: stak
Tags: nutrition
Posted on: 2011-08-08 15:17:31

Same disclaimer and meta-information applies to this post as my previous post (Nutrition 101).


Fats are more complicated than sugars. There are lots of different kinds of fats and fatty acids, so I'm going to only cover the basics here.

First, saturated-ness of fats. Fats can be classified as saturated, or unsaturated (specifically mono-unsaturated or poly-unsaturated, which I'm going to group together), based on their chemical structure. Unsaturated fats are more unstable, and can go rancid easily. In fact, a lot of vegetable oils in stores are basically rancid unsaturated fats, and can be toxic in the same way that free radicals are. Even if they aren't rancid when you buy them, they will go rancid quickly if you cook with them. Saturated fats, on the other hand, are stable, and do not have this problem. Unsaturated fats are also usually in the form of vegetable oils, which require a lot of processing to extract from vegetables, making it much less "natural" that saturated fats.

Unsaturated fats can be further classified as cis-fats or trans-fats. Trans fats rarely occur in nature, and are usually created in food processing industries. Trans fats are generally accepted to be very bad for you, and have been linked to heart disease. Note also that trans fats and saturated fats are both generally solid at room temperature, and a lot of previous studies mixed the two together. This is why people used to think saturated fats were bad, because it was really the bad trans fats doing the damage. More recent studies have shown that saturated fats are not bad for you but trans fats are.

Finally, some types of polyunsaturated fats are "essential" fats that you need to eat, because your body cannot produce them by itself. Omega-6 and omega-3 are two types of these essential fats. Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory, but omega-6 fats are inflammatory. When you consume these, they should be in about a 1:1 ratio, so that their side-effects cancel each other out. Unfortunately, modern/processed foods have ridiculously high omega-6 content, and the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is often something like 30:1 or 40:1. Even ratios of 5:1 are considered "healthy" and would help a lot with reducing inflammation throughout your body. Fish and grass-fed meats have more omega-3 fats, whereas vegetable oils and corn-fed meats have more omega-6 fats.

So, to summarize, cook with and eat saturated fats (e.g. butter, coconut oil) and only eat unsaturated fats that are found naturally (i.e. eat nuts rather than corn oil). Also, prefer grass-fed meat to corn-fed meat, and eat fish if possible.

See also: Nutrition 103.

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