In my last few articles I have been focussing on dietary fats. Until recently dietary fats were seen as the macronutrient to avoid. They have been associated with heart disease, obesity and many other negative health conditions. However, this common perception of dietary fats could not be further from the truth. With the exception of trans fats, dietary fats support your body in performing many vital functions, offer protection for your cells and promote optimal health. In this article I want to expand on this topic further and provide you with a comprehensive list of the many benefits of dietary fat.
Saturated fat is still seen by many as a ‘bad’ fat. It has been strongly linked with clogging the arteries and significantly increasing your chances of developing heart disease. The reason for this dates back to the 1940s. Around this time hydrogenated trans fats were created by vegetable oil manufacturers. Before the 1940s saturated fats were a regular fixture in most people’s diets. Vegetable oil manufacturers wanted to promote their new creation and so pushed hydrogenated trans fats as a healthy alternative to saturated fats. They backed their claims up with flawed research and were successful in reducing consumption of saturated fats whilst increasing consumption of hydrogenated trans fats.
More recently the flaws in this research have been revealed. Recent studies have linked hydrogenated trans fats (and not saturated fats) with cancer and heart disease. These studies have also revealed that hydrogenated trans fats have no nutritional benefit. Furthermore, the benefits of saturated fats have now started to be realised. These benefits include:
1) ABSORPTION OF OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS:- Elongated omega 3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat found in fish, dairy products and eggs. Although they are not a saturated fat, the presence of saturated fat in the diet helps your body absorb them more effectively.
2) IMPROVED BRAIN HEALTH:- Approximately two thirds of your brain is constructed cholesterol and fat. About half of these brain fats are saturated. Therefore, consuming saturated fats supports optimal brain health.
3) IMPROVED HEART HEALTH:- When your heart is stressed it uses the saturated fats palmitic acid and stearic acid. Therefore, saturated fats can improve your heart health during times of stress.
4) IMPROVED LIVER HEALTH:- Saturated fats can protect your liver from harmful substances including alcohol and medications. It has also been shown to reverse liver damage and remove fat from the liver.
5) IMPROVED LUNG HEALTH:- Saturated fats help your body produce a substance called lung surfactant which helps them function properly. Not getting enough saturated fat in your diet can cause faulty lung surfactant to be produced. This can damage your lungs and lead to breathing problems.
6) OPTIMAL NERVOUS SYSTEM:- Some types of saturated fat act as nervous system messengers. They have an important influence over functions such as digestion and insulin release. Failure to consume enough saturated fat means that these functions are not performed properly.
7) REDUCED HEART DISEASE RISK:- Contrary to popular belief, saturated fat can actually lower your risk of developing heart disease. Consuming saturated fat lowers blood levels of a substance called lipoprotein (a). The presence of lipoprotein (a) is a strong risk factor for heart disease so by consuming saturated fat you can decrease this risk.
8) STRONG CELL WALLS:- Saturated fats give your cell walls their rigid structure. In fact 50% of your cell walls are constructed from saturated fats. Not only do saturated fats keep your cell walls structured but they also offer protection from external materials.
9) STRONG BONES:- Saturated fat helps your body absorb calcium properly. Calcium supports strong bones and also reduces the chances of you developing osteoporosis (reduced bone density).
10) STRONG IMMUNE SYSTEM:- Certain types of saturated fat help your body produce strong white blood cells. Myristic acid (found in butter) and lauric acid (found in milk) are two such fats which ensure that you produce strong white blood cells and have a strong immune system.
Monounsaturated fat has not received nearly as much negative press as saturated fat. This is largely down to the Mediterranean diet which has given huge publicity to the benefits of monounsaturated fat which include:
1) IMPROVED BLOOD CHOLESTEROL LEVELS:- There are two main types of cholesterol; low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL cholesterol has been linked with heart disease, high blood pressure and organ damage. HDL cholesterol collects LDL cholesterol from the blood and transports it to the liver where it is processed and excreted. Monounsaturated fats help lower blood levels of LDL cholesterol and increase blood levels of HDL cholesterol. This helps keeps your vital organs and blood vessels healthy.
2) IMPROVED BLOOD GLUCOSE CONTROL:- Monounsaturated fats contain a substance called aidponectin which enhances your cell’s ability to absorb glucose. Monounsaturated fats also increase your cell’s insulin sensitivity which allows them to take glucose from the blood effectively.
3) REDUCED CANCER RISK:- Multiple sources link monounsaturated fats (particularly those found in olive oil) with cancer prevention. In particular these monounsaturated fats are thought to protect you from breast cancer and colon cancer.
4) REDUCED INFLAMMATION:- Monounsaturated fats interfere with leukotrienes (naturally produced molecules that contribute to inflammation) and therefore actively reduce inflammation in the body.
5) THEY ARE A GOOD SOURCE OF FAT SOLUBLE VITAMINS:- Foods that contain monounsaturated fats are often a rich source of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Monounsaturated fats also help you absorb these vitamins effectively. Fat soluble vitamins have various health benefits which include supporting healthy vision, helping your blood clot and protecting your cells from dangerous free radicals.
6) THEY CAN HELP YOU BURN FAT:- Research suggests that monounsaturated fats can help you burn fat and prevent the build up of fat around the center of your body.
OMEGA 3 ESSENTIAL FATTY ACID BENEFITS
Omega 3 fatty acids are one of the main types of polyunsaturated fat. They have many health benefits which include:
1) ABSORPTION OF FAT SOLUBLE VITAMINS:- Whilst monounsaturated fats are a good source of fat soluble vitamins, omega 3 essential fatty acids help you fully absorb these vitamins.
2) HEALTHY VISION:- Omega 3 essential fatty acids are used by your body to produce retinal tissue. Therefore, consuming omega 3 essential fatty acids helps keep your vision strong. Contrastingly, not consuming enough can lead to problems with your vision.
3) IMPROVED BRAIN HEALTH:- Omega 3 essential fatty acids support brain health in a different way to saturated fats. They have been linked with protection from Alzheimer’s disease (a condition that destroys your brain cells). They also support the production of cell membranes and signal pathways in your brain.
4) REDUCED CANCER RISK:- Like monounsaturated fats, omega 3 essential fatty acids can help protect you from various cancers including breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer.
5) REDUCED HEART DISEASE RISK:- Like saturated fats, omega 3 essential fatty acids also reduce your heart disease risk. They do this by lowering blood triglyceride levels, lowering blood pressure and removing fatty plaques from your artery walls.
6) REDUCED INFLAMMATION:- Like monounsaturated fats, omega 3 essential fatty acids also help reduce inflammation. This is particularly good news for sufferers of arthritis, asthma and eczema as omega 3 essential fatty acids can reduce the inflammatory pain associated with these conditions.
OMEGA 6 ESSENTIAL FATTY ACID BENEFITS
Omega 6 essential fatty acids are the other type main type of polyunsaturated fat. Their health benefits include:
1) HEALTHY SKIN:- Omega 6 essential fatty acids are a key ingredient in the formation of healthy skin cells. They have also been shown to help with skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema.
2) REDUCED PRE-MENSTRUAL SYMPTOMS (PMS):- Research has shown that omega 6 essential fatty acids can relieve both bloating and breast tenderness that are often products of PMS.
3) STRONG BONES:- Like saturated fat, omega 6 essential fatty acids help your body absorb calcium. Therefore omega 6 essential fatty acids support strong bones and protect you from bone damaging conditions such as osteoporosis.
DIETARY FAT BENEFITS SUMMARY
As you can see dietary fat is not the evil macronutrient that people once thought. I hope this article has showed you just how important an addition to your diet it can be. Dietary fat has countless health benefits and I have listed a massive 20 in this article. Just to recap those benefits are:
- Absorption of fat soluble vitamins.
- Absorption of omega 3 essential fatty acids.
- Healthy skin.
- Healthy vision.
- Improved blood cholesterol levels.
- Improved blood glucose control.
- Improved brain health.
- Improved heart health.
- Improved liver health.
- Improved lung health.
- Optimal nervous system.
- Reduced cancer risk.
- Reduced heart disease risk.
- Reduced inflammation.
- Reduced PMS symptoms.
- Strong cell walls.
- Strong bones.
- Strong immune system.
- They are a good source of fat soluble vitamins.
- They can help you burn fat.
What do you guys think about dietary fat? Is it a significant part of your diet? Are there any benefits I have missed. Leave a comment and let me know.