A Guide in Understanding Saturated Fats
Don’t you get a little confused with the constant change in what’s good for us one week then bad the next? It really can be quite confusing. Personally I find that I feel better when I eat unprocessed food that’s as close as possible to being as nature intended. This includes variety and balance too, both of which are essential for health.
It, also, includes the “dreaded” word fat! We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that we need fat for energy but, as with everything, it’s all about eating the right kind. In this article I want to look at fats in our diet, in particular saturated fats and to explain:
- What are saturated fats?
- The different types of saturated fat
- Why we need them
Part of the jigsaw of fats in our diet, includes coconut oil. We call this ‘Nature’s Perfect Ingredient’.
Where to Start
Let’s take a step back and delve into the whole saturated fats issue – what exactly are they, do we need them, are they good for us, bad for us? Quite a dilemma and made worse by the fact that we read so many conflicting articles. It seems that the Government says one thing, food manufactures switch allegiance depending on trends and the Medical profession can’t quite make its mind up. So, who do we believe?
Back to the Beginning
To understand saturated fats, we need first to look at fats as a whole. It’s important to know the whole picture so that you can make your own informed opinion.
Doctors refer to fat as ‘lipids’ which is a general term that includes several fatlike compounds in the body and the most important lipids are the triglycerides.
Triglycerides are composed of individual fat molecules known as fatty acids.
Fatty acids are made up of:
- Carbon (C)
- Hydrogen (H)
- Oxygen (O)
And these are then arranged as a carbon chain. They are grouped on the molecular length of the carbon chain into:
- Long-chain fatty acids
- Medium-chain fatty acids
- Short-chain fatty acids
An important point to note here is that each type of fatty acid is dealt with differently by the body and therefore, its benefits or otherwise.
Scientists have grouped these fatty acids together into three categories: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
Within each group there are many types, all of which affect the body differently and exert different influences on the body. This means we shouldn’t be making sweeping statements that one fat or oil is “bad” because it is saturated or another oil is “good” because it’s monounsaturated or polyunsaturated and vice versa. In other words, we can talk about general properties of a group of fats but should always look at the individual fat’s properties before deciding if its “good” or “bad”.
All natural fats consist of a mixture of the three classes of fatty acid and they are then categorised by the fatty acid of which they’re predominantly made up eg.
Coconut oil is 92% saturated fat, 6% monounsaturated and 2% polyunsaturated=saturated.
Olive oil is 14% saturated fat, 77% monounsaturated and 9% polyunsaturated = monounsaturated.
Saturated Fats – What Are They?
I’m going to concentrate of saturated fats since they seem to be the ‘villain of the piece’ and we’re constantly told to reduce the amount we eat.
Saturated fats are more stable under various conditions. Heat, light and oxygen don’t affect them to any great degree which makes them ideal for food that needs to be cooked or stored for any length of time. They, also, remain stable when heated to normal cooking temperatures, making them preferable to polyunsaturated oils. This is due to the chemical make-up of saturated fats (the carbon chain is complete with no missing hydrogen atoms) and they do not oxidise under heat.
Types of Saturated Fat
Saturated fats are derived from animal products, such as meat, dairy and eggs, and also from plant based products such as coconut and palm oils.
The source of the saturated fat is really important since it depicts the way in which the fat is made up – is it a long-chain fatty acid, medium-chain or short-chain? The length of the chain affects the fat’s chemical properties.
Most fats in our diet are long-chain.
Raw coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid.
Including Fat in Your Diet
Fats contain calories, which are needed to fuel the body so it’s vital that we eat the right sort. Coconut oil is a saturated fat but it is the best natural source of medium-chain fatty acid. Why is this? It is predominantly made up of lauric acid.
What is Lauric Acid?
Coconut oil contains the richest natural source of this nutrient, approximately 48%, compared to butter or milk fat which equate to only 3%. These are the only other food sources that contain any significant amounts of lauric acid – researchers have been looking at ways to include it in our foods, including manufacturing supplements.
The web offers a selection of information explaining how the body metabolises medium-chain fatty acids and I’d advise everyone to take a look for themselves to then be in a position to make their own informed decision.
Athletes and Coconut Oil
Athletes of all kinds require a high endurance, reliable and efficient energy source to fuel the demands they place on their body. Extra virgin coconut oil is often the preferred choice of fat to include in their diet.
Coconut oil also replenishes intra muscular fatty acid (IMFA) stores post workout – IMFAs form part of muscle cell membranes- so is an invaluable fat source on many levels.
Kat Paes International Taekwondo Competitor @KatPaes
A Body-Changing Tip
Nature provides us with all that we need to maintain a healthy body.
Listen to your body…..take note of that incredible sense of well being that you feel when you’ve eaten healthily and cling on to it for dear life.
For a comprehensive guide to the benefits of coconut oil please refer to this article here.
About Lucy Bee Limited
Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and eating close to nature with additive free products for health.
Members of the Lucy Bee team are not medically trained and can only offer their best advice. Any information provided by us is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
Please note you should always refer your health queries to a qualified medical practioner.