When we talk about fats we refer to a set of dense organic substances, insoluble in water, known as lipids. Its molecular structure usually involves a number of fatty acids attached to a molecule of glycerin or glycerol (C3H8OR3), in what is called a triglyceride.
These meet structural functions (hold organs, build insulating layers) and energy reserve in the body, allowing its subsequent breakdown into sugars (carbohydrates).
However, some lipids behave as solids at room temperature and are known as fats; while others act like liquids and are known as oils. And this distinction is essential to understand the existence of good fats (essential for the body) and bad fats (harmful to the body).
Types of fats
The different types of fats are classified according to their chemical composition, distinguishing between those that have the simplest links between their molecules, and those with more complex links, in three different types:
- Saturated fats. Formed by fatty acids with long molecular chains, they are solid at room temperature and usually of animal origin, dairy or in oils from some palms and vegetables.
- Unsaturated fats. Liquid at room temperature, these fats contain essential nutrients required by the body, even though it cannot synthesize them on its own. Most of them are of plant origin and can be, in turn, of two types:
- Monounsaturated. They raise the levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL, for its acronym in English) in the blood, decreasing at the same time low-density lipoproteins (LDL), popularly known as cholesterol.
- Polyunsaturated. Made up of fatty acids from the Omega-3 and Omega-6 series, each has a direct effect on both forms of cholesterol (both HDL and LDL) and on triglycerides (sugars) in the blood, respectively.
- Trans fat. This type of lipid is obtained from the hydrogenation of vegetable fatty oils, converting them from unsaturated to saturated. They are extremely harmful to the body, since they increase the levels of low-density lipids (LDL), lowering those of high (HDL) and promoting the proliferation of triglycerides.
Good and bad fats
From the previous classification it can be deduced that the so-called “good fats”Are only unsaturated, which retain their liquidity at room temperature and serve to build lipoproteins necessary in life, as well as to reduce the harmful fats present in our blood. They are often popularly referred to as “good cholesterol.” For instance: nuts, avocados and eggs.
Instead, saturated and trans fats are the “bad fats“, Harmful to the body, as they are atherogenic: they promote the accumulation of dense layers of fat in the arterial walls, called atheromas, which are a recognized cause of vascular accidents, heart failure, hypertension and numerous diseases such as atherosclerosis. This is commonly called “bad” cholesterol or cholesterol. For instance: fried foods, soft drinks, chocolate.
Examples of foods with good fats
- Vegetable oils. Oils rich in polyunsaturated fats, such as those from olive, canola, sunflower, soy, peanut or safflower. Some, such as olive oil, are recommended for consumption raw, as a salad dressing, although it can be perfectly used for cooking.
- Nuts. Monounsaturated fats from oil seeds and some nuts (peanuts, walnuts, cashews, almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, chia, hemp, and pumpkin seeds, etc.) are associated with the “good” spectrum .
- Avocados and avocados. These fruits are rich in monounsaturated fats, so their consumption is recommended to reduce the margins of bad cholesterol and increase those of good cholesterol.
- Blue fish. Most oily fish such as herring, bonito, tuna or salmon are rich sources of omega 3, one of the most beneficial essential fatty acids in reducing triglycerides in the blood.
- Whole grain cereals. Like bran, whole grain wheat, and whole grain products made from them, they are rich in omega 6, the most powerful and beneficial of essential fatty acids, which lowers “bad” cholesterol and increases “bad” cholesterol at the same time. well”.
- Soy products. Common in the vegan or vegetarian diet, soy products (the least processed possible, the better) contain “good” fatty acids that are perfectly incorporated into the daily diet.
- Eggs. Although it has been confirmed that they contain omega 6 and many necessary proteins, there is controversy around the consumption of eggs, since there is no definitive decision on their load of “bad” cholesterols present in the yolk. If you only consume the white one, there is no risk of raising your cholesterol because there are no fats of any kind in it.
- Inchi or jíbaro peanuts. The Plukenetia volubilis It is a Peruvian plant whose seeds have an unusual value in essential fatty acids. It is estimated that it can contain 50-60% omega 3 of various types and other essential oils such as omega 9.
- Cod liver oil. A common dietary supplement is this oil rich in docosahexanoic acid, one of the main polyunsaturated fatty acids of the omega 3 series. It can also be extracted, in laboratories, from algae. Crypthecodinium cohnii.
- Essential Fatty Oil Capsules. Finally, we can find omega 3 and omega 6 series oils in commercial capsules from the pharmacological industry.
Examples of foods with bad fats
- Whole dairy products. Despite being rich in calcium, whole milk, fatty cheeses, butter of animal origin and other derived products tend to be large carriers of saturated fat, so their consumption should not be abused or the lighter or lighter variants should be preferred. skimmed.
- Tropical oils. Palm or coconut oil, despite its vegetable origin, are rich in saturated fats that are considered part of the “negative” spectrum.
- Red meat. The meat of cattle and pigs contains good amounts of saturated fats, as well as the products that are derived from them, such as animal butters and sausages. In 2015 the WHO warned about the risk not only lipidemic but even carcinogenic of the disproportionate consumption of these meats.
- Margarines and hydrogenated vegetable fat products. In many countries of the world, the sale of these foods has been prohibited or restricted, since it is a set of trans fats much more harmful than any of natural origin. Margarine, especially, is bought as a supposed healthy substitute for butter, but its atherogenic effect is much worse.
- Fast foods. Despite how tasty they are, most fast foods contain an abundance of trans and saturated fats, key to the speedy preparation of their products. It is recommended to consume this type of food as little as possible per month.
- Fried. Fried foods have the disadvantage that their high temperatures denature the oils, generating low-quality saturated fats, and depending on the food, they can be filled with crumbs or charred residues that spread numerous organic toxins to the oil.
- Cookies, cakes and baked goods. Not all of them are rich in trans fats, of course, that is why it is convenient to find out about the type of fats used during the process of making them. If you use margarines or hydrogenated vegetable oils, it means that the end product will be rich in these same harmful fats. In any case, the use of saturated fat is not exactly a beneficial alternative for health..
- Greasy sauces. Like mayonnaise and others like it, they contain saturated fats of animal origin that are among the “fattening” or harmful lipids.
- Fizzy drinks. Although soft drinks and sodas do not contain harmful fats as such, they are a determining factor in their appearance, since they contain so much sugar that they promote an artificial abundance of triglycerides in the blood, the result of which will be, as we have seen, the generation of fats from reservation.
- Chocolate. Although much has been said about the neurobenical effects of chocolate, its high content of saturated fat is not usually remembered, especially in chocolates with added whole milk. It is convenient to monitor the type of cocoa consumed, as some variants can reach up to 25% of harmful saturated fats.