Science

Healthy Fats

Fat is calorically dense with nine calories per gram, making it a more concentrated source of energy than both protein and carbohydrates. Consuming sufficient amounts of healthy fats in the right form is essential for several functions of the body and mind. It helps bolster the immune system, enhance brain function, reduce cardiovascular disease, increase energy and performance, and is a key factor in regulating body weight. You also need fat to absorb several antioxidants, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and to aid in the formation of hormones.

Bad fats are the trans fats (trans fatty acids), which are abundant in foods that contain vegetable oil. These fats are associated with heart disease and diabetes, especially when also consuming high carbohydrate diet.

Healthy fats include some saturated fats and unsaturated fats, which include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Both mono and polyunsaturated fats, when eaten in moderation and used to replace trans fats, can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. One type of polyunsaturated fat is omega-3 fatty acids, which are found most notably in fish, walnuts, almonds, and flaxseed. One common source of monounsaturated fats is avocados. Most of an avocado’s calories are in the form of fiber and healthy fat.

Coconut oil is also a healthy saturated fat made up mostly of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which your body can manage better than the longer-chain fats found in vegetable oils and fatty meats. These medium chain fatty acids go straight from the digestive tract to the liver, where they are turned into ketone bodies and provide a quick source of energy.

Recent studies show that saturated fats do not increase risks for heart disease and can increase good cholesterol (HDL) levels. Although there is a risk that too much saturated fats can raise the dangerous cholesterol (LDL), coconut oil does not raise the types of LDL cholesterol that is concerning, but actually improves your cholesterol profile. Even when saturated fat does raise your cholesterol, the type of cholesterol becomes more important than cholesterol itself.

Abnormal cholesterol LDL levels can become a problem when it is the small dense LDL particles, accompanied by high triglycerides caused by high-carb, low-fat diets. Studies show saturated fat raises LDL, but it improves the quality of the LDL making it less likely to promote heart disease. It also raises HDL. There are tests that can calculate the lipid particle sizes to see if you have the small, more harmful, particle sizes. Optimal results will show plenty of healthy, large LDL particles along with high amounts of good HDL.