Fats are considered as the biggest enemies of health and fitness and we associate the word ‘fat’ with all that’s unwanted and ugly. Notorious due to their high caloric value, fats are in fact the most misunderstood nutrients! Little do many realise the complexity in the quality of fats that can make or break your diet and fitness regime!!
‘Bad quality’ Saturated fats can lead to fat gain and increase risk of health problems, while ‘Good qualty’ Unsaturated fats are the opposite – they reduce or prevent health problems and actually force your body to burn fat faster!
GOOD FATS ARE ESSENTIAL for metabolism.
Fats are not just those stored under the skin; they are present in all body cells as “gatekeepers” in the outer wall surrounding the cell (called ‘cell membrane’).
For each cell to work efficiently, it needs an input of nutrients, an output of wastes, and a good communication with all hormone signals.
Hence, our entire body’s metabolism depends on good quality fats working efficiently as gatekeepers!
A GOOD FAT IS A FLUID FAT!
Ever noticed that if you stuff a loose flexible cloth bag till it’s completely full, it loses its flexibility and becomes hard? Just apply that thinking to a long fatty acid carbon chain. When it’s completely full with hydrogen or ‘saturated’, it loses its flexible structure and is very hard and solid. But unsaturated fats contain less hydrogen and are easily flexible and fluid.
Saturated fats, i.e. solid fats such as milk fats, animal fats or coconut, tend to harden the walls around the cell like ‘cementing’ it and the cell gets imprisoned within itself. Without a healthy membrane, the cell loses water, nutrients beginning of cell injury and cell death.
It also loses its ability to respond to hormones that regulate metabolism such as insulin, leading to insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease and other complications.
But unsaturated fluid fats, i.e. from liquid vegetable oils, keep our cells flexible and sensitive and working optimally.
Liquid vegetable oils have three types of unsaturated fats: Mono-unsaturated (MUFA), omega-6 poly-unsaturated (PUFA) and omega-3 PUFA; each with a different structure and extent of fluidity.
For a flexible and efficient cell membrane, it should have a balance of all three.
It is clear now that our health and fitness is at the mercy of our dietary fats, especially MUFA and the omega-3 fats, which are most elusive in our diet.
There’s a BIG catch to all PUFA: Our heroes have an Achilles heel; being highly unsaturated, they are highly unstable and vulnerable to oxidation.
On oxidation, the “Dr. Jekyll” PUFA turns to a toxic “Mr. Hyde” and can lead to rapid cell destruction. They need the protective shield of powerful fat-soluble antioxidants such as vitamin E and selenium, along with vitamin C.
However, MUFA fats are the best balance between fluidity and stability – keeping cells stronger, preventing oxidation of LDL cholesterol and reducing risk of heart disease.
Olive oil and Canola oils are the only cooking oils that are rich in MUFA and help achieve an efficient and fast metabolism, without being weak to the onslaught of toxins.
(This is an original article written by Gauri Murthy)