Everything You Need to Know About Saturated Fat
Fats are four letter words that are the most overused and misunderstood concept when it comes to being healthy. Some are dreaded by the idea alone that it can cause cardiovascular disease but the truth is our body store up fats for energy that are needed to keep our bodies to function properly. Fats are micronutrients that we eat in a large amount and give us energy. Years ago doctors will recommend limiting fats or avoiding it totally in a diet to prevent weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes but now doctors are seeing that fats are not all that bad and may keep you healthy. Naturally, we need fats for absorbing important vitamins like vitamin A, D, and K, it also helps in promoting satiety for longer after a meal, help maintain normal body temperature, and insulate vital body organs.
With this findings, how safe to consume foods with saturated fats? And are saturated fats important to our diet? Read on.
What are saturated fats
Chemically speaking, saturated fats are simply fat molecules that don’t have a double bond between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules. To explain further, each fat molecule consists of one glycerol molecule and three fatty acids that can either be saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. This saturation has to do with the number of double bonds in the molecule. Saturated fatty acid has no double bond while monounsaturated has one double bond and polyunsaturated has two or more double bond. Saturated fats are found in a variety of food such as butter, meat, and dairy products. It tends to be solid in room temperature.
The controversies surrounding saturated fats began when a major epidemic on heart disease has become widespread throughout America. Researchers have learned that eating foods high in saturated fats increases the cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. It was an important finding because at that time having high cholesterol was linked to increasing the risks of having a heart disease. However, this claim has no experimental evidence in humans and studies have continued to reveal that saturated fat alone has no direct effect on causing heart disease.
Another concept that put saturated fats in the spotlight was the seven countries study. It is hypothesized by Ancel Keys, a diet researcher, that a Mediterranean rich style diet that is low in animal fats would be associated with the decrease rate of heart disease while diets rich in animal fats would have higher rates of heart disease. During this study, it was found that a higher level of serum cholesterol has a linked to increase risks of heart disease and it is believed that saturated fats are the main perpetrator. This study had made a critical influence on health organizations and the government to cut back saturated fats altogether to maintain a healthy heart despite the lack of evidence linking saturated fats with heart disease. Thus, the fad of a low-fat diet has promulgated as a result of this. However, the concept of linking saturated fats and heart disease together has been challenged continually and studied intensely. The best studies and research continued to demonstrate no statistical correlation and association between the two.
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Saturated fats are not at all bad when choosing the right kind of food that has healthier saturated fats. Here are healthy saturated fats foods options on which you can choose to include in your diet:
- Full-fat dairy
- Grass-fed beef
- Grass-feed butter
- Dark chocolate
- Coconut oil
Likewise, there are saturated fats that are not good for your health. Although these foods contain a good amount of saturated fats, it is mostly comprised of high sodium, trans fats, additives, and chemicals that are carcinogenic therefore should be avoided at all cost. These foods are:
- Processed meat
- Pre-packed fatty snacks
- Baked products
- Deep fried foods
While there is much debate on saturated fats, trans fat, on the other hand, needs to be cut out totally. Trans fat is made mostly in an industrial process called hydrogenation wherein hydrogen is added to vegetable oils to make food last longer. They are primarily found in processed products such as French fries and other fried foods, cakes, pies, doughnuts, crackers and other baked products, microwave popcorn and frozen pizza dough. They give food a satisfying good taste and texture. Although it might give a good taste they are a bad news for your health. It increases the amount of LDL cholesterol level and decreases the amount of HDL cholesterol level in the bloodstream which results in raising the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes incidence. They have no known health benefits and no level of safe consumption for foods with trans fat. This type of dietary fats is detrimental to your health and should be completely avoided.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SATURATED FATS
Much has been said about saturated fats but never on the health benefits that it offers. Saturated fats have been naturally in existence for thousands of years where humans have lived and thrive on food as the richest source of energy and nourishment long before the idea of dietary fats have been born. Our ancestors based their diets on eating high fats for they know that it was essential for proper sustenance and survival. Historians will attest that our ancestors have lived a robust and fit life despite facing stressful situations like dangerous climate, invasions to predations and lack of clean water and they were largely unharmed with a degenerative disease that we have today.
To emphasize the good things about saturated fats, here are the lists of its health benefits.
- Boost brain health – Our brain is made up of fats and most of it is saturated fats. It is needed for our brain to grow, regenerate and stay healthy. Intake of saturated rich food such as coconut oil is believed to be beneficial for boosting brain performance. The medium chain fatty acids that are found in coconut oil is considered to bring a protective effect on brain health that is helpful in improving neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s.
- Improve heart health – Saturated fats are a rich source of lauric and stearic acids that helps to regulate the cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. Cholesterol is a waxy like substance that is vital for cell membranes and helps in the synthesis of hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids. Saturated fats are also known to increase the level of HDL or good cholesterol in the blood that is beneficial in reducing the risks of coronary heart disease.
- Good for the bones – Saturated fats are necessary for absorption of vitamin D in the body and in turn help in absorbing calcium effectively in the bones. Calcium and vitamin D work together to protect your bones. The absence of these minerals in your bones will result in poor bone density that could lead to increase risks for osteoporosis.
- Strong immune system – Saturated fats found in butter and coconut oil are important in maintaining a good immune system. Loss of sufficient saturated fatty acids in white blood cells hampers our body’s immune system to recognize and detect foreign invaders like viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
- A good messenger – Saturated fats act as a messenger. It tells your organs and glands what to do. An example of clear and right nerve signaling is when saturated fats help in signaling the body of just the right amount of insulin is to be released in response to glucose in the blood. A low diet in saturated fats can result in poor communication between the cells in your body and may havoc to your health.
The bottom line is that saturated fats have been in consumption by humans for thousands of years. It made our ancestors flourish in this type of dietary fats. It won’t hurt if you follow and not shun down totally the good things that saturated fats can bring to your health. The key is to get a good balance of fats and other nutrients in your diet.