Good fats and excellent health and fertility go hand in hand. Apart from lubricating body surfaces, insulating the body from the cold, carrying fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), storing energy and being a major component of cell membranes, good fats and cholesterol are components of the steroid hormones responsible for appropriate hormonal levels and optimum fertility. Hence, fats and oils are important in the diet. They are the most concentrated form of food energy, contributing about nine calories/gram, as compared to about four calories/gram for carbohydrates and proteins. Fats make a meal more satisfying by creating a feeling of fullness, as well as delaying the onset of hunger whilst helping to balance blood sugar levels.
Lipids are present in all living cells, but the proportion varies from tissue to tissue. Triglycerides accumulate in certain areas, such as in the fatty tissue in the body, where they represent a form of energy storage. The more complex lipids occur closely linked with protein in the membranes of cells and are needed for their formation and the synthesis of hormone-like compounds which regulate many important functions in the body. More active tissues generally have a higher complex lipid content; for example, the brain, liver, kidney, lung, and blood contain the highest concentration of phospholipids, hence their importance in fertility and in the development of the embryo as well as brain function and overall health.
Dietary fats consisting largely of saturated fatty acids (especially long-chain fatty acids) tend to be solid at room temperature, while fats consisting largely of unsaturated fatty acids are liquid at room temperature. Butter and other animal fats are primarily saturated; olive and canola oils, mono-unsaturated; and fish, corn, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils, polyunsaturated. Although plant oils tend to be unsaturated, there are notable exceptions, such as coconut oil, which comprises a beneficial type of highly saturated fatty acids.
Saturated fats tend to be more stable than unsaturated ones. The food industry takes advantage of this property during hydrogenation, in which hydrogen molecules are added to unsaturated fat to make it saturated and thus more stable, solid, and ‘spreadable’ (as in margarine, which, by the you should NEVER). The hydrogenation process changes the unsaturated fatty acids from a configuration known as cis to one known as trans. Trans fatty acids, which behave more like ‘bad’ saturated fatty acids, contributing to hormonal and reproductive imbalances and other undesirable health consequences.
Trans fats are thought to increase the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the bloodstream shown to clogs arteries and lead to increased risk of coronary heart disease. And although more research is required, trans fats consumption may lead to other serious health conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and liver dysfunction.
It’s really important to note that in order to decrease your consumption of trans fats (damaged fats) certain foods must be avoided or dramatically reduced. Below is a list of foods with appreciably high levels of trans fats, which are best avoided.
- Canned soups and stews
- Certain Cereals
- Coffee whitener
- Commercial Granola
- Hydrogenated and partly hydrogenated anything
- Hydrogenated peanut butters
- Many Puddings
- Margarine (this is definitely a case where butter is better than margarine!)
- Most dips and sauces
- Most salad dressings
- Most snack foods
- Pastries made with vegetable shortening
- Processed cheese
- Soft Candies
- Sweet Breads
So what fats should you eat?
For the purposes of a healthy diet and optimum wellbeing and fertility, the best fats to consume are the omega 3 fatty acids found in small, deep-ocean fish such as sardines, salmon, trout, blue-eyed cod, herring and the like.
For salad dressings the best oils to use include extra virgin, organic olive or walnut oils. Other choices include grape seed oil, avocado, macadamia, flaxseed and for optimum shelf life always be sure to store your oils in properly sealed, preferably dark bottles the fridge to avoid oxidation. In addition buy in small bottles so you use them quickly and avoid consuming rancid oils.
For cooking, the best fats to use are butter or ghee and/or coconut oil — these already saturated fats do not become trans whilst cooking and in the case of coconut oil the already saturated fat found there is a healthy type of oil, which will not become damaged and carcinogenic when heated — unlike most other oils.
Avoid other types of vegetable oils in your cooking including corn seed and canola as the processing suffered by these oils as well as their fatty acid profiles (which favour omega 6 fats) are already consumed in far too much excess in the modern western diet.
Finally, good fats are essential for general health. Choose wisely, store safely, consume fresh (by buying in small quantities) and your health will greatly prosper!