Types of Fat
Part ⅔: Types of fat…
In Healthy Fats Part ⅓ the importance of fats was discussed. There are different types of good fats, and some that are bad.
We need a specific balance of different types of good fats for optimal health. Some specific types of fat molecules are called omegas, followed by a number based on their structure. Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are ones we must get in our diet because we cannot make them. According to “The Queen of Fats” by Susan Alport, the healthiest, balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is 1:2.6. Olive oil, for example, has a ratio of 1:10 omega-3 to 6.
You may have heard of omega-9 fatty acid, and think, what about that one? While omegas 3 and 6 we must get from our diet, the body is amazing and can make omega-9 from a combo of monounsaturated and saturated fats.
Yes, saturated fats are not all bad. We use them in small amounts for various tasks in the body, including as a part of the immune system. While experts vary in opinion on the exact amount of saturated fats that is best, the range is fairly tight; only between 6% and 9% of your daily calories should be coming from saturated fats. So, while that isn’t a ton of saturated fat, it isn’t by any means zero.
Since fats are almost 10 calories per gram, that makes for easy math. If you are a small person and burn about 1,400 calories per day that would be 84 to 126 calories per day from saturated fat aka 8 to 12 grams of saturated fats. Be aware that most labels base information on a 2,000 calorie diet. Doing regular testing on people, most people whose basal metabolic rate (BMR) is 2,000 calories are six-foot tall or above.
That said, for a 2,000 calorie diet, you’d need about 12 to 18 grams of saturated fat daily. Note that your total fat intake would be higher, that’s just the amount of saturated fats.
An overly simplified way to tell the type of fat in a food is by observing whether or not a food is solid at room temperature. Things like cheese and butter, are solid at room temperature indicating they have a higher amount of saturated fat. Butter is softer, indicating it has less saturated fat than cheese. Flax oil, which is very high in omega-3 (an unsaturated fat), is always liquid even when refrigerated. Olive oil is a mix of fats that stays part liquid and part solid when refrigerated.
These ratios or balances of types of fats are really important because all fats compete for the same digestive enzymes and bile salts for breakdown and absorption. The largest percentage of fat type intake will win that competition.
So, while you might pat yourself on the back for taking a fish oil supplement for omega-3, if your diet has too much of other types of fats in it, you may be absorbing very little to none of that expensive omega 3 supplement.
To help put healthy ratios in perspective, the American diet has an omega 3 to 6 ratio of as much as 1:25 instead of the healthy 1:2.6 ratio. The good news is that an organic, grass-fed, butter for example, is actually a very healthy balance of fats for humans.
Bad fats are ones that do not belong in the human body. Any fat that is “hydrogenated”, synthetic, or has become rancid does not belong in the human body and will cause health problems. The next and final article about fats will discuss what these types of fats are and why they are “bad”, as well as provide a list of good and bad fats and where to find them.