Eat Fat to be Fit! Doesn’t it sound Crazy? It can be the most destructive advice one can give you but let me get into the reality for you all, my dear friends, This is the Truth! Eating fats will never lead you towards obesity or diseases which unfortunately has been drilled into your minds since ages. As I have told you in my previous article, “Carbohydrate: The Slow Sweet Poison”, black coffee consumption cannot make you black and milk will not turn you into fairer person. Similarly using fats as a dietary source cannot turn you into fatty person because the association and causation are different. For instance, if you have heard about “Big Fat Weddings” it actually refers to the rich and expensive weddings involving heavy expenditures. It doesn’t have to do anything with the fatty crowd present at the time of wedding or the bride and the groom. Fat has actually been associated with the richness whether its people, energy source in food, culture or festivals. Fat sources were and are all times rich man’s product.
Saturated Fats & Unsaturated Fats:
Fats are also called lipids and are made up of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms. To a common man’s knowledge, the “Unsaturated fats” are Good fats and the “Saturated fats” are Bad fats but I am glad to say that this is not the real scenario. Let’s discuss why is it so and gets into the dietary sources for each one of them.
Saturated fats are those fats which are solid and stable at room temperature and completely filled with hydrogen atoms hence providing it a stable structure. Therefore, it must be preferred for cooking and as a dietary source naturally present in food. So, you can cook your food using coconut oil, ghee, yellow butter, white butter and palm oil and many other animal fat sources. As far as foods with naturally available saturated fats are concerned, you have options of eggs, chicken, meat, bacon etc. The best part is that due to saturated fat’s stable property, it doesn’t turn into carcinogenic product which is the synonym for cancer. As saturated fats have tightly packed hydrogen atoms leaving no empty space giving them a straight structure without any kink hence, they are stable upon heating and non-carcinogenic.
Now I will be focusing on the most popularly “supposed” healthy fats that is unsaturated fats which are liquid at room temperature and not so stable as compared to saturated fats. Moreover, these fats have empty spaces void of hydrogen atoms which make them unstable upon cooking. Let’s understand this with an example. Suppose there is a bridge using which you have to cross a valley and that bridge is supported with ropes from either side but you find that some ropes are ruptured making it dangerous to walk on it as it is not balanced. Same thing happens with the unsaturated fatty structure. Because of the absence of hydrogen atoms on one side of the structure, it becomes kinky that is there is a bend in the structure making it unstable and when heated, this structure breaks down and sometimes turns into carcinogenic molecules. Therefore, these unsaturated fatty acids either should be avoided or if need to be included in the diet then one should follow some protocols like some of them should be used for dressing purpose means raw and not to be cooked and some should be supplemented or needed to be consumed in an organised manner so that it gives benefits instead of harming your body.
Let’s go through the different categories under unsaturated fatty acids and also learn the eating etiquettes of these categorised unsaturated fatty acids.
- Omega-9: It is also called as Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acid (M.U.F.A). It has another name “Oleic Acid”. It is a non-essential fatty acid means body can synthesise it. It is called M.U.F.A because it has Mono means only 1 double bond in its structure making it more stable than other unsaturated fatty acids i.e., Omega 3 and 6. And the protocol I spoke about will now be applied here. This class of Unsaturated fatty acid should not be heated and should be consumed raw. Due to budget constraint if you cannot use Saturated fats for cooking then Omega-9 is the next available option as they are the second most stable oils present in nature but these should not be cooked on high flame or to a Smokey level. Examples of Omega-9 are: Olive oil (it should be preferred for dressing), Mustard oil (For pickles), Rice Bran oil (Dressing &Soups), walnuts, avocado, peanuts and many more.
- Omega-6: It is also called as Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (P.U.F.A.). It has another name “Linoleic Acid”. It is called P.U.F.A because it has Poly means more than one double bond is present in its structure making it unstable for cooking among the other unsaturated fatty acids. Such fats should not be consumed in more quantity as they promote inflammation, blood vessels constriction and also increase blood clotting factors in body upon exceeding the recommended limit. Examples of Omega-6 are Soyabean oil, Sunflower oil, Safflower oil, Corn oil, hemp seeds, tofu, cereals etc.
- Omega-3: It is also called as Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (P.U.F.A.). It has another name “Alpha Linolenic Acid”. It is called P.U.F.A because it has Poly means more than one double bond in its structure making it unstable for cooking among the unsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids are already low in our diet or in our food sources specially for vegetarians. In animal food sources we tend get it in moderate quantity. This unavailability of Omega-3 and very high amount of 0mega-6 disturbs the ratio of omega-6 and Omega-3 in our body which actually should be 1:1 and maximum acceptable limit is 3:1 but you will be astonished to know that the current ratio is around 40:1 which is not at all healthy. Why all this is happening? Have you ever tried to figure it out? The answer to the above statement lies in your filthy eating habits which includes more of Omega-6 than Omega-3. Not only this, whatever junk food you are eating specially in the form of carbohydrates and not only junk whatever food you eat specially grain based, it includes more of Omega-6 hence disturbing the ratio. Sources of Omega-3 are Fish Oil, Algal oil, salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, nuts and seeds like flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and many more.
It will be surprising for you to know that after so many ifs and buts omega-6 and 3 are still needed by your body as your body cannot synthesise it on its own hence you need to provide it from external source which is your diet but in a strict ratio, on this account they are also named as “Essential Fatty Acids”.
You must be thinking that I haven’t mentioned many vegetables and animal food sources including eggs for omega-3, 6 &9, Remember I will always be focusing on the food sources as per the quantum of the nutrient present in it. This means that if the quantity of a particular saturated and unsaturated fatty acid is less or negligible in a food source then I will not consider that food source under the respective categories of fatty acids.
For Example: Ghee has approximately 70% of saturated fatty acid and 30% unsaturated fatty acid but just because of high saturated fatty acid content, it falls under the category of saturated fatty acids despite of having unsaturated ones.
Another example is the 100 gram of Coconut oil in which saturated fatty acid accounts for 91 gm, omega-9 (M.U.F.A. or Oleic Acid) is 6 gram and Omega 3 and 6 (P.U.F.A.) are 0.2 gram.
Let’s discuss the interesting facts of fats one by one: –
1. Human body is made up of trillions of cells and the cell is the most important structural and functional unit of life. You can perform day to day activities just because your cells are functioning in a very beautiful and organised manner to support your life. Your cell does many functions like synthesis of proteins, fats, energy and antibodies production, encompassing the crucial genetic information in the form of “DNA” (Deoxyribonucleic Acid). This cell also consists of an outer double layered protective semi-permeable membrane which protects all the parts of cells called organelles by permitting required and essential substances to enter or exit the cell which are performing the above-mentioned functions to keep us alive and just imagine what this double layered protective membrane is made up of? The correct answer is: 47-48% of Fats, 50 % of Proteins and 1 to 3% of Carbohydrates (Glucose).
2. When you are naturally gifted with fats and proteins in your cell structure in majority and negligible amount of carbohydrates, then don’t you think you should keep fats more in your diet instead of carbohydrates for energy but this decision is completely on your wisdom what you choose to ingest and what you want to be because there is a saying, “You Are What You Eat” and you cannot fix your health until you fix your diet.
3. The Vitamins which are very essential for human’s life are divided into water soluble vitamins i.e., Vitamin B & C and Fat-Soluble Vitamins i.e., Vitamin A, D, E & K. Each and everything in this world run on energy and so is the human body but all the credit of providing energy goes to the macro nutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) but without the help of these vitamins our body is not capable of extracting energy from the above macro nutrients. But the fate of the fat-soluble vitamins i.e., Vitamin A, D, E & K lies in the hands of fats. It means that the absorption and optimal functioning of these vitamins will happen only when there is sufficient fat in your diet because these vitamins will be found in the food sources rich in fats. Just a glimpse, Vitamin-A is important for your Vision, Vitamin-D is responsible for strong teeth and bones, Vitamin-E is needed for good skin and to maintain the life span of RBC and Vitamin-k plays a vital role in making Blood Clotting Factors. Not only these but they have various other functions which I will be discussing in my future articles.
4. It is high time that a common man should realise the truth about the cholesterol that it is not the main cause for various Cardiovascular Diseases, Atherosclerosis and others. Cholesterol is a type of fat which is made by liver and small intestine in our body to perform various vital functions. If I write in brief, cholesterol is responsible for the production of the bile juice in liver and this bile helps in the digestion by emulsifying the big Triglyceride (TG) molecule into smaller fragments for digestion to start. It has been seen many times Doctors advising the patients facing Cholesterol issues to cut down the uptake of food sources responsible for it.
5. If you are a vegetarian you will be glad to know that plant-based food sources do not contain cholesterol due to absence of liver and intestines in their structure. People who are dependent on animal food sources, they get about 3% of cholesterol from it. So, it is pretty much clear that the cholesterol fluctuations are not dependent on cholesterol from dietary food sources.
6. Whether it is Vitamin -D synthesis in our body or sex and stress hormones production, these crucial functions are dependent on Fats and Cholesterol. This is true that our body has the potential to synthesise Vitamin-D with the help of sun’s rays under the skin. Beneath the skin there is a compound called “7-Dehydrocholesterol” a form of cholesterol which turns or synthesises Vitamin-D for our bones and teeth.
The cholesterol is a crucial part of our cell-membrane on which the cell permeability depends. This means it enables the capacity of a cell to allow required and important substances to enter and exit the cell as per its need.
If you are blessed with a good memory, say thanks to fats but if you are not then you need fat. Let’s get into the details of this statement. Your nerves are responsible for the conduction and transmission of electrical impulses and messages due to which you are able to act and memorise stuffs. Neuron is the smallest structural and functional unit of your nervous system and this neuron consists of a myelin sheath which is just like a coating on the wire or an insulating layer present in the brain or spinal cord. Now you see this myelin sheath is also made up of protein and fatty substances which allows electrical messages or impulses to transmit quickly and efficiently along the nerve cells. Hope you understand what all can happen with your body systems at cellular level if you are fat deficient.
After discussing so much about fats and its function I would like to make one thing very clear that through this article I have tried to throw some light on fats but that doesn’t mean that you get happy by eating Bread with Butter, Chicken biryani, Butter chicken with Naan etc. Such combinations are lethal to our body and fats should never be combined with carbohydrates. It’s not the butter which is troubling you but it’s the bread which is the main culprit. Yes, chicken, meat, eggs are great sources of fats but rice and naan are not. Remember bread, rice, naan all these are great sources of carbohydrates.
So, let’s stop getting scared by the term “Fats” which will never make you fat, it is still the carbohydrates leading to fat gain and you only need to focus on your diet when on fat loss. Fats and protein consumption do not increase your blood sugar level/blood glucose level but when you ingest carbohydrate/dietary glucose it has direct impact on your blood glucose level as it gets high.
Let’s see the relationship between the blood sugar and hormonal environment in your body. Imagine you had a delicious, mouth-watering pancake with caramel, now this mind-boggling food will lead to sudden rise in blood sugar level which eventually will force the beta cell of pancreas to release a substantial amount of insulin. Now this insulin may or may not be potent enough to manage that amount of dietary glucose, if it is able to manage the bolus amount of glucose which is an insulin sensitive state of your body cells, body will utilize maximum amount of glucose without creating any hormonal disbalance or mess or fat gain in your body. But don’t be happy as beta cells of pancreas or insulin or the receptors and many other factors have a threshold which is unpredictable. You never know when your body gives up because of the continuous elevated sugar levels in your blood. Once your body cells get resistant to insulin for example liver or muscle cells, it will show resistance toward insulin and the cells will not accept dietary glucose upon insulin signaling.
This may occur due to the damage to the insulin receptors or the glucose transporters over and inside the cell. Now resultant glucose will not be able to enter the muscle cells hence it will be forced to go to the liver where required amount of glucose will be converted into ATP by the action of insulin and some will be stored as glycogen in liver. Rest unused glucose will be converted into Triglycerides (TGs) through an enzyme activated by insulin which further sends TG to the fat cell for storage hence making you fat.
Fat cell also has insulin receptors which allows glucose to enter it. And in this whole mechanism you can observe the absence of role of fat in fat gain that is Lipogenesis. Your cells might be resistant to Insulin signaling meaning Insulin becomes inefficient in performing its function. What if you are eating carbohydrates with fats? It is a lethal combination because carbohydrates will be broken down into glucose resulting in high insulin levels. So, the muscle and fat cells might not permit glucose to enter it due to insulin receptors resistance over cells.
When you speak of fat digestion and absorption, you tend to consume TG molecule which is made up of 1 glycerol attached to 3 fatty acids molecules. Now this TG molecule will go to liver with the help of a protein transporter known as chylomicron. On its way to the liver, some amount of TGs will be broken down by an enzyme into its basic structure which is 1 glycerol attached to 3 fatty acids. Now these fatty acids will be delivered to muscle cells to make ATP’S and some will be sent to fat cell for same purpose but the glycerol molecule will have only 1 place to go which is liver as glycerol cannot be used by muscle cell or fat cell. This glycerol will be converted into TG molecule inside the liver but as there is no requirement of glucose neither for storage nor for ATP so it will further be sent to fat cell. This is the reason for swelling of fat cells resulting in Lipogenesis.
To conclude, the above given examples are some of the functions of cholesterol and always get into the logical reasoning about cholesterol before making any kind of conclusion. Keep reading my articles as I will be taking you on the roller coaster ride bursting the myths related to cholesterol. There will be a dramatic change in your thought process which will compel you to make a different opinion about fats and nutritional facts.
At the end I just want to conclude that it is the mindset of people which is incorrect because this is what we have been taught since our childhood and through all other mediums like newspaper and advertisements. Such medium focuses on fat as the most dangerous thing which can ever happen to your body but if you dive in deep sea of nutritional analysis, you will find everything completely opposite. Earlier there were many countries who had set a limit on the consumption of trans fats which is a poisonous substance and very different from the healthy Fat I have spoken about. Over the period of time and awareness, many countries have banned the usage of Trans fat and reduced its consumption to 0%.
I hope that one day the myths regarding fats will definitely get vanished and we will not only survive but thrive the way we were meant to be.