Dietary fat is one of three macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and protein. It is used in the body as a source of energy, similar to carbohydrates. Your brain is largely made of fat, and some degree of body fat helps regulate hormones and provide energy during times of fasting.
Fat has been misunderstood for years. It was once believed that dietary fat made you fat, but as it turns out, fat is vitally important for good health.
In saturated fats, every carbon atom in the chain is connected by a single bond and has a hydrogen atom attached to every available side. In other words, each carbon atom is saturated with hydrogen.
This structure creates a fat molecule that is rigid and solid at room temperature. Saturated fats are generally more shelf stable and are less affected by exposure to heat and light than other forms of fat. Sources include animal fats like lard and butter, and plants like coconut and palm.
In unsaturated fats, some carbon atoms are connected by single bonds and some by double bonds, and some carbon atoms are not saturated by hydrogen.
This structure creates a dietary fat that is fluid, appearing as liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are not very shelf stable and go rancid more quickly, especially when exposed to heat and light. Sources include fruit oils like olive and avocado, seed oils like flax and sunflower, and nut oils like walnut and almond.
While saturated and unsaturated fats occur naturally in plants and animals, trans fats are created either through excessive heat (e.g. deep frying) or through a process called hydrogenation. In the 1950s, scientists believed that saturated fats were the primary cause of heart disease, and people were encouraged to avoid them and only use unsaturated fats. But olive oil just doesn’t taste right with fried eggs and toast, and it certainly doesn’t work in cakes and frostings. So, people turned to margarine and shortening. These “healthy” alternatives made pie crusts flaky, baked goods soft and chewy, and they seemed to never spoil.
Sounds like a win-win, right? Well, not exactly. Hydrogenation takes an unsaturated fat, breaks its double bonds and adds hydrogen, saturating the carbons.
This two-dimensional picture of hydrogenated or trans fat might look identical to saturated fat, but in its true, three-dimensional form, it’s like a poorly reconstructed version.
Trans fats harden and clog the arteries, promote inflammation throughout the body, wreak havoc on your digestive system and accelerate the aging process. In fact, rather than reducing heart disease, trans fats has increased heart disease and other health issues.
There is no shortage of controversy and conflicting opinions about dietary fat. But here’s our stance: Avoid trans fats and hydrogenated oils completely. They are never a healthy option. As for saturated and unsaturated fats, they both play important roles in nutrition when consumed in moderation
Below is a list of healthy dietary fat sources and their benefits, along with some cooking advice:
With regard to the SHAPE ReClaimed program, dietary fat is limited in the first cleansing phase. You and your practitioner can decide how much dietary fat is best for you. There are circumstances when fats like flax oil, fatty fish like salmon, coconut oil and/or avocados can be added, but this is usually the exception rather than the rule. Follow the guidelines closely, and make adjustments according to your practitioner’s recommendations.
August 6, 2018