“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Dietary fat is the densest form of energy with nine calories per gram.
It’s more than double of carbohydrate and protein with four calories.
Chemically, dietary fats consist of carbon atom chains that range from 2 to 22 in length.
The state (liquid or solid) of the fat depends on its chemical structure.
Most saturated fats (single carbon bonds) are solids while most unsaturated fats (double or triple carbons) are liquids at room temperature.
Here is a list of some sources of fat:
- Animal products
- Dairy products
- Some vegetables, fruits, and fungi
Cholesterol is a type of lipid molecule that’s in every cell of your body.
It’s an essential part of the cell membrane because it helps maintain membrane structural fluidity and integrity.
Any excess cholesterol is usually produced by your body rather consumed from food.
Lipoproteins, composed of fat on the inside and proteins on the outside, are small packages that travel through the bloodstream containing cholesterol.
The two types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol throughout the body are low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).
Cholesterol Health-Related Problems
A high level of LDL, “bad” cholesterol, can clog arteries and constrict blood flow to key organs, such as the heart.
On the contrary, HDL is sometimes called the “good” cholesterol because it brings cholesterol from other parts of your body to the liver where it gets purged.
Despite the two different characteristics of LDL and HDL, it’s important to have healthy levels of both types of lipoproteins.
By eating soluble fiber, it can decrease LDL levels to help protect against heart disease.
Heart attack and the level of cholesterol (high or low) has no correlation according to research.
High cholesterol can actually increase the lifespan according to some studies.
Cholesterol is essential to functions of the brain and nervous system.
This essential hormone is also a repair substance that helps with food digestion and production of vitamin D.
Testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, hormones that tolerate stress, and hormones that regulate blood sugar and mineral metabolism all have cholesterol.
Because of its antioxidant properties, cholesterol can fight against free radicals.
You can receive cholesterol from eggs and bacon.
You can add bacon back to your eating lifestyle!
Consume in moderate amounts and try to aim for pastured eggs (33% less cholesterol) and bacon from organically pastured pigs.
I typically eat one hard-boiled egg per day for healthy cholesterol and protein to aid with muscle recovery.
Eating Healthy Dietary Fat
Because of the results from the famous Seven Country Study by Ancel Keys in the 1950s, you believe that eating saturated fat and cholesterol can cause heart disease.
However, saturated fat decreases cholesterol, blood pressure, the risk of heart disease, and risk of obesity according to more recent research.
Refuting that saturated fat consumption increases the risk for heart disease is also backed up by another research with over one million people and 72 studies.
Benefits of Dietary Fat
Eating healthy fat will help your body:
- Increase fat-burning hormones
- Boost growth hormones
- Regulate hormone levels
- Promote lean muscle growth
- Prevent muscle breakdown
- Promote proper cell functions and maintaining cell structures
- Nourish the nervous system
- Help nutrient absorption
When consumed in the proper amounts, fat is fat burners’ best friend!
Not to mention fats make food taste more delicious with an added flavor!
Saturated and Unsaturated Fats
Because of the chemical composition and properties, saturated and monounsaturated fats can resist oxidation (darken color change) and rancidity which allows storage up to six months (75°F).
Short-chain fats like saturated coconut oil (89% saturated) stimulate weight loss and help decrease your waist size, body weight, and blood triglycerides.
Excellent sources of antioxidant in reducing inflammation and the risk of heart disease, long chains fats like monounsaturated olive oil (55 to 83% saturated) have a wider range of fatty acids.
Surprisingly, 69 to 83% of imported extra virgin olive oils failed to meet the IOC/USDA sensory standards for extra virgin olive oil according to a study by University of California, Davis.
Don’t buy extra virgin olive oils from the grocery store, instead get them from your local farmers market.
Ask your local farmer about their source of olives and harvest date.
To gain customer’s trust, farmers usually have different flavored olive oil samples for you to try.
The ones that give a stingy feeling in the throat (can provoke coughing) afterward is a clear sign of freshness!
Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Essential to your overall health and not produced by the body, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids must be consumed from food or supplements.
In addition to promoting brain health and stimulating fat metabolism by regulating insulin levels, Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory chemicals that help in energy creation from food.
They are found in fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and meat products.
Here are some food sources that contain omega-3 fatty acids:
- Leafy green vegetables (more reasons to love them!)
- Wild-caught seafood (especially salmon, herring, halibut, and mackerel)
- Macadamia nuts and walnuts
- Chia and flax seeds
- Poultry and eggs
- Cows, bison, and lamb (including liver and organ meats)
A type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), omega-6 fatty acids are both inflammatory and non-inflammatory.
They are mostly found in vegetable oils in the form of linoleic acid (LA).
Here is the metabolic pathway for linoleic acid in the body.
- It’s first converted into gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
- GLA can further be broken down into arachidonic acid (AA or ARA), an inflammatory agent.
- GLA can also be converted into dihomo-γ-linolenic acid (DGLA) with enzyme catalysts (magnesium, zinc, vitamins C, B3, and B6) to increase the conversion rate.
The essential chemicals are GLA and DGLA because they are responsible for reducing inflammation.
Supplements for omega-6 are found in the form of LA and GLA and converted to DGLA.
Similar to that of omega-3, omega-6 fatty acids have many health benefits by:
- Regulating metabolism
- Stimulating skin and hair growth
- Maintaining bone health and the reproductive system
Here is a list of food sources that have omega-6 fatty acids.
- Corn oils (most are GMO, stay away unless organic)
Because some omega-6 fatty acids are inflammatory, you should eliminate or reduce omega-6 intake (consult with your doctor) if you the have the following:
How Much Omega-3 and 6 Fatty Acids You Should Eat
Having a well-balanced ratio (2:1 or higher) of the omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is key in reducing inflammation while receiving both of their benefits.
Consuming grass-fed beef is an excellent way to keep a well-balanced ratio because of the higher ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.
Studies have shown that the Mediterranean-style diet is less likely to develop heart disease and it’s due to the higher ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.
Supplementing with omega-6 fatty acids are usually not necessary since your typical eating lifestyle provides plenty of it.
Consuming omega-3s from salmon, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil, I will occasionally supplement with Nordic fish oil.
You can use flaxseed oil for non-meat options.
To prevent my skin from breaking out, I aim for a ratio of 1.5:1 or higher.
Any inflammation in the body will first appear on your skin since it’s your body’s first line of defense and biggest organ.
Dietary Fats You Should Avoid
Avoid any fat that is fried, packaged, or processed (trans fat, hydrogenated fat, and polyunsaturated oil).
Fats from industrial animals should be avoided as well because of their food sources.
Their diets are unnaturally high in carbohydrate that contain GMO (genetically modified organism).
Similar to humans, animals store pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic growth hormones, and other toxins in their fat.
To lower the levels of toxins in conventional meat, trim and drain off any excess fat before consuming.
Healthy animals raised with plenty of space to roam free and pasture on their natural diets give nutrient-dense fats that are beneficial for you.
Trans fat should be avoided at all cost because they aren’t naturally found in nature.
Produced by the hydrogenation chemical reaction, trans fats are chemical additives used to prolong food’s shelf-life.
Here are the health problems associated with consuming trans fat:
- Heart disease
- Insulin resistance
- Systemic inflammation
- Female infertility
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) allows food labels to declare trans fat-free if the food has less than one gram of trans fat per tablespoon (7% by weight).
Therefore be aware when you see trans fat-free labels at the grocery store next time, it doesn’t mean it has no trans fat!
Here are some store-bought foods that contain trans fat.
- Microwavable popcorn
- Peanut butter
- Frozen pizza
- Packaged sweets (pastries, cakes, etc.)
- Fried food
- Any food that has partial or hydrogenated oil
Trans fat has no business being in your bodies!
Production of Processed Fat
As a chemical engineer, I had modest amounts of experience with the hydrogenation process.
It’s a chemical reaction that requires a metal catalyst and hydrogen atoms to react with the feed material to produce the desired product.
The purpose of the reaction is to change the chemistry of the feed material by “reducing” the triple or double carbon to carbon bonds (unsaturated) to single carbon bonds (saturated) product.
These reactions also produce small amounts of side-products (impurities) such as trans fat (unnatural) instead of cis fat ( the natural form of unsaturated fat).
Manufacturers remove some impurities just to meet product specification.
Even by meeting food specifications (less than one gram of trans fat per tablespoon) set by the FDA, the food could still potentially contain trace levels of other unknown impurities that even scientific methods can’t detect!
Just like trans fat, many other impurities don’t need to be stated on the food label if they fall below a certain level.
Are you willing to put your health at risk?
Fats and cholesterol have received a ton of negative publicity because of their correlation to heart disease and heart attack from past scientific research.
But recent research studies contradict those claims and can actually increase lifespan!
Dietary fats, cholesterol, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are all essential to the body.
Avoid processed fats as much as possible, especially trans fat.
You don’t have to be perfect all the time as you should enjoy your life.
Your body is extremely resilient and can heal itself over time with proper nutrients, but be acutely mindful of what you consume.
Before you eat something, ask yourself this:
Will this food nourish or sabotage my body?
By simply being aware of what you’re putting into your body will help you make that conscious decision.
Whatever you decide, take responsibility and accept the positive or negative outcome.
My approach is to eat whole raw foods and steer away from packaged foods, including low-sugar and “healthy” protein bars.
My stables fats are avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, eggs, dark leafy vegetables, chia seeds, flax seeds, and salmon.
Experiment and create an enjoyable list of dietary fats for yourself!
Please share this article with anyone who you think may find it useful.
If you have any questions and/or comments on dietary fat, please leave a comment below or send me an email.
Want to become a stronger version of yourself?
Start here with your gift!
Lisa Brown, Bernard Rosner, Walter W. Willett, and Frank M. Sacks, “Cholesterol-Lowering Effects of Dietary Fiber: A Meta-Analysis,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 69, no. 1 (1999): 30-42.
Bathum, Lise, René Depont Christensen, Lars Engers Pedersen, Palle Lyngsie Pedersen, John Larsen, and Jørgen Nexøe. “Association of Lipoprotein Levels With Mortality in Subjects Aged 50+ Without Previous Diabetes or Cardiovascular Disease: A Population-based register study.” Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care 31, no. 3 (September 2013): 172-80.
Hamazaki, T., H. Okuyama, Y. Ogushi, and R. Hama. “Cholesterol Issues in Japan – Why Are the Goals of Cholesterol Levels Set So Low?” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 62, no.1 (January 2013): 32-36.
Geleijnse, Johanna M., Cees Vermeer, Diederick E. Grobbee, Leon J. Schurgers, Marjo H. J. Knapen, Irene M. van der Meer, Albert Hofman, and Jacqueline C. M. Witteman. “Dietary Intake of Menaquinone is Associated With a Reduced Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: The Rotterdam Study.” The Journal of Nutrition, 134, no. 11 (November 2004): 3100-5.
Rajiv Chowdhury, Samantha Warnakula, Setor Kunutsor, Francesca Crowe, Heather A. Ward, Laura Johnson, Oscar H. Franco, Adam S. Butterworth, Nita G. Forouhi, Simon G. Thompson, Kay-Tee Khaw, Dariush Mozaffarian, John Danesh, and Emanuele Di Angelantonio, “Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Annals of Internal Medicine 160, no. 6 (2014): 398-406. doi: 10.7326/M13-1788.
”Omega-6 Fatty Acids.” University of Maryland Medical Center. N.p., 4 Aug. 2015.
De Lorgeril M, Salen P. New insights into the health effects of dietary saturated and omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. BMC Med. 2012;10:50.
Institute of Medicine, Dietary References Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press 2005
Nathalie T. Bendson, Ryan Christensen, Else M. Bartels, and Arne Astrup, “Consumption of Industrial and Rumninant Trans Fatty Acids and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies,” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 65, no.7 (2011): 773-83. Doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2011.34