Well, originally the argument of fat totally belongs to the chemistry and many of the experts who talk about it, are not well versed in chemistry. I am also not an expert in chemistry, but I have studied a little bit about it in Biochemistry.
We all have heard about chemical terms called “saturated” and “unsaturated” when we have discussion about fat. It’s often said that butter is a saturated fat, and olive oil is monosaturated fat. But it’s not entirely true. The fat in our foods actually contains a blend of different kinds of fatty acids. Butter contains a lot of saturated fatty acid, but it also has a lot of unsaturated fatty acids as well. This may seem like a minor point, but if you want to cut through the confusion and get to know the facts about fats, these distinction are critical.
When discussing the health effects of fat, we can’t simply use the term “fat”. It’s not specific enough. We need to specify the fatty acid composition of the food in the question. Is it high in saturated fatty acids, for example, or is it high in polyunsaturated fatty acids? Nor should we use the general term “good” or “bad” because whether a food with a given blend of fatty acids is “good” or “bad” for you depends on how your body is using the fat. We need to specify a metabolic function. Are you using fats for fuel? For building a healthy brain? Or for sending chemical messages? Fatty acids that are well suited for sending chemical messages are not well suited for use as fuel, and vice versa.
We all know all oxygen, it burns things. So to determine, which fats are best suited for our body, the essential quality to evaluate is , molecular stability. To be a good fuel, the fatty acid needs a good deal of stability. It especially needs to be able to resist reacting with oxygen. Oxygen, already said that, it burns things. Hence, it’s a destructive molecule, and it can react in an uncontrolled, literally explosive fashion. If a fatty acid is unstable, then it’s reaction with oxygen can damage the mitochondria, and fueling with regular basis can damage the rest of the cell. But, if the fatty acid is stable, then it resists reacting with oxygen. When our mitochondria is supplied with stable fatty acids, they react in a slow controlled fashion that produces a much greater proportion of useful energy and much less damaging. We all know mitochondria right, It is an Energy House of the cell, which means, it produces energy in a structural unit called cell.
Coconut, lard, and butter are all examples of good saturated fat sources.
The term “saturated” refers to the fact that there are no spaces on the molecule where another molecule could potentially react. Saturated fatty acid molecules are kind of like long dining tables with a friendly person seated at every chair. With hydrogen molecules (friendly people) sitting at every one of the chairs, there is no empty seat, and that helps to prevent unwanted guests, like oxygen, from sliding in and disrupting the happy saturated fatty acid dinner party conversation. Being saturated with hydrogen atoms makes saturated fat chemically stable and capable of resisting oxygen attacks.
Saturated fat is not chemically stable; it’s also physical stiff. The physical stability makes it very useful as a building block for our body’s cell membranes. Saturated fat is stable thanks to the fact that it’s chock-full of little hydrogen atoms, or “saturated” with them. These hydrogen atoms are packed between the carbon molecules and stabilize the long chain of carbon atoms that might otherwise bend and sway a little bit. Think of hydrogen atoms adding stability the way mortar stabilizes a stack of bricks.
The relatively high saturated fat content of coconut oil, butter, and lard not only enables our cells to generate an abundance of clean energy; it also gives them heat stability, making these excellent cooking fats. (These foods are unrefined, which gives them a low smoke point, so you need to stir them when cooking to prevent burning.)
The fats in warm- weather, traditional oil-source plants like coconut, peanut, and olive are good for us because they are molecularly stable. This stability is reflected in a higher melting point, meaning they melt (go from solid to liquid) at hotter temperatures. Coconut oil is the most extreme example, being solid at room temperature and not really melting much until you get it up to body temperature. We can get energy from these stable fats without harming our bodies. (The fatty acids in butter are mostly saturated and monosaturated, and butter also burns cleanly inside our body’s cells.)
On the other hand, the polyunsaturated fatty acids in cold-climate oil seed crops like canola, corn, and soy are bad for us because they are unstable. This instability is reflected in their lower melting point, meaning they melt (go from solid to liquid) at when our mitochondria burn them, which makes them a very bad fuel for our cells. We can get energy from them, but only at the risk of damaging our cells.
The low melting point benefits cold- weather plants because it helps the seeds geminate and come alive in relatively cool weather. But the low melting point is a big problem for us when we eat them in the amounts we now do because it means our mitochondria are force-fed inferior fuel that shuts down energy production and forces our cells to seek sugar to survive.
The nutrition label tells you to limit your saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your total daily calories. Such extreme low intake of saturated fat is not a good idea because saturated fat makes for a wonderful fuel. Our bodies make saturated fat from carbohydrate, so even if we literally zero dietary saturated fat, when we eat a good amount of carbohydrate, we will have a good amount of saturated fat in our arteries. If saturated fat were really that bad for us, high-carbohydrate diets would be just as deadly as diets high saturated fat
Fortunately, whether the saturated fat in your bloodstream came from carbohydrate- rich food like a potato or saturated-fat- rich food like coconut, it does not put your health at risk.
The saturated fatty acids travel in our bloodstream through a special particle called Lipoproteins that can prevent all kinds of fats from clogging our arteries. So, there is no way it can it can cause cogs in our arteries. It’s the refined oil, too much of unhealthy fat and bad cholesterol, that’s enemy here.
Olive oil, peanut oil, and the oil from today’s most revered nut, Almonds, are all examples of good monosaturated fatty acid sources.
Monounsaturated fat gets its name from the fact that there is one (“mono”) empty space on the molecule where another molecule could potentially react. Instead of being saturated, it’s missing one set of hydrogen atoms.
Missing one set of hydrogen atoms means there is one empty seat at that long fatty acid dinner party. You might wonder if oxygen could squeeze into that seat and cause a disturbance. But fear not. It turns out that oxygen is such big louse that he actually needs two seats, and he won’t bother crashing a party with just one open spot.
If you’ve ever tried to store olive oil in the fridge, you have probably noticed it gets cloudy. That’s because the , melting point of olive oil is right around refrigerator temperature, so when chilled it starts to solidify into small chunks that give it a cloudy look. The blend of fatty acids in olive oil makes it more liquid than butter, but more solid than vegetable oils like soy, which don’t cloud up in the fridge. So, you can think that monosaturated fatty acids are neither extremely liquid nor extremely solid.
The relatively high monosaturated fat content of olive, peanut, and almond oil gives these oils a special ability to generate energy quickly. They are relatively stable to heat, and can safely be used for cooking. Like many unrefined oils, they have a lower smoke point, so you need to stir them during cooking.
I think, we all have heard of PUFA at some point in our life. Well, these PUFA stand for PolyUnsaturated Fatty Acids.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are known as “essential” fatty acids because it is essential that we eat some. But the amount our bodies require is a small , something like 3 to 5 grams per day of each (the exact amount we need has not been established). Today, 80 percent of the average of 50 grams of PUFA per day, or about five times what our bodies can handle.
The rest of this section is going to introduce you to the basics of why exceeding our PUFA needs by several hundred percent is such a problem for your health. To understand that, we need another brief chemistry lesson.
The term “polyunsaturated” refers to the fact there are two or more (“poly” means “multiple”) pairs of missing hydrogen atoms. This leaves two or more empty spaces on the molecules where another molecule where another molecule could potential react.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are the most chemically flexible fats, thus maintaining their fluid state even at lower temperatures. This is why most store- bought salad dressing doesn’t get cloudy or clumpy in the fridge, while your homemade olive oil dressing does.
If you are nutrition buff, you might know that polyunsaturated fatty acids come in two major categories, omega- 6 and omega-3. Our bodies use omega-6 and omega-3 to promote and control inflammation. Omega-6 tends to promote inflammatory reactions that helps us fight off infections and clot our blood. Omega-3 tends to oppose those inflammatory reactions and clotting factors so they don’t get out of control. Now, you might think that I’ m going to be talking about the fact that too much omega-6 can tilt the chemical balance in your body in favor of inflammation. But this is just a tiny part of the problem with eating so much PUFA. The much bigger problem with excessive PUFA consumption is its instability. Because PUFAs are extremely unstable molecules, when PUFA concentrations rise above what our cells are designed to handle, they can wreak atomic havoc inside the cell. The trouble starts when oxygen reacts with polyunsaturated fatty acids. Oxygen can actually crack the molecule open at one of its double bonds, exposing bond energy that causes a major problem. The cracked-open polyunsaturated fat forms a dangerous kind of molecule called a free radical. Free radicals are hazardous to everything around them in much the same way that X rays can be hazardous. When free radicals form inside your cells, it’s a little like having a fire spark inside your home. It can quickly get out of control, consuming your furniture, your walls, climbing to the second floor. In the same way, when your cells are flooded with too much PUFA, oxygen reactions may start damaging your cell membranes and disrupting normal activity inside your cells at any moment.
Back when your consumption of these oils was fraction of what it is now, the body could quickly control any oxygen-induced fires using antioxidants. Now that we are eating so much unstable fat, we are putting our body tissues at risk for out of control oxidation reactions. These reactions essentially burn our cell membranes at the submicroscopic level.
When your metabolism is healthy, your body is well-appointed with a huge variety of antioxidant defenses in the form of enzymes. We enjoy one of the longest lifespans in the animal kingdom in part thanks to this arsenal of oxygen-protection enzymes. Unfortunately, today’s high concentration of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids is essentially accelerating the aging process.
Trans fat is the fourth category of the fat we going to discuss in this chapter. The trans fats I’ m referring to are made in factories; they are not naturally present in our food. Trans fats in most store-bought foods are made from vegetable oils like corn and soy, which are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids. The manufacturing process changes the molecular shape of the polyunsaturated fatty acid, ironing it nearly flat. This molecular change transforms a liquid oil to a solid fat that can substitute for more expensive products, like butter and coconut oil. Trans fats made in factories can change our cell membrane fluidity and damage enzymes, and other chemical by-products of the manufacturing process include a host of highly toxic by-products.
Some trans fats occur in dairy products and are actually very good for us; for example, conjugated linoleic acid has been shown to kill cancer cells, unfortunately, the trans fat listing on the label refers to both toxic trans fats from vegetable oils and good ones from dairy. One way to find out if the trans fats on the label are good or bad is to look at the ingredients list for the word “hydrogenated” (Hydrogenation is one of the forty or so steps involved in the manufacture of toxic trans fats.)
If it’s solid at room temperature, it’s called fat. If it’s liquid, it’s called oil.
A fatty acid is single chain of carbon molecules from four to twenty- six carbons long. If you take three fatty acids and combine them into one molecule by attaching them to something called glycerol, that’s a fat. The proper technical term for that type of fat is triglycerides Your doctors checks your blood levels of triglycerides (fat) when he does a cholesterol test.
Cold- tolerant plants like flex and canola are high in polyunsaturated fats. Warm- weather plants like olive and peanut are high in monounsaturated fats. Tropical plants like coconut and macadamia nut tend to be high in saturated fats.
Floor varnish and linseed oil used in oil paintings are high on polyunsaturated fatty acids. Once you remove varnish or linseed from the container and expose it to oxygen, the unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids begin to polymerize, ultimately forming a nice shiny lacquer possessing the waterproofing quality of plastic. Polymerized polyunsaturated fat is great for protecting your floors and works of arts, but terrible for your mitochondria, your brain, your arteries, and every other part of your body.