During the last two nutrition posts, I’ve already covered two of the three major food groups: Protein and carbohydrates. So, the one left now is – fats. I feel like we’re having such a love-hate relationship with this topic today – and everybody is arguing about the right way of eating (or not eating) fats. So much fuss! Which is actually completely unnecessary once you understand the basic principles. Because when this happens, you can be rather confident about what amount and kind of fat you want to nurture your body with – and you’ll be able to see the bigger picture after all. So, let’s dive right into it:
Fats are a food group. And that already implicates that there isn’t just the fat. So, whenever somebody (talking about healthy nutrition) is reducing the topic to this general level – it’s probably not worth reading on.
The basics structure – being part of all fats – are the fatty acids. It’s a chain of C-atoms that can be connected via a single or double bond. That’s when people start talking about saturated and unsaturated fatty acids – and understanding what they mean is simple: Unsaturated fatty acids (the good ones) have at least one double bond in their chemical structure – and will therefore be processed slightly differently by our bodies than the other ones. And that’s it. They’re not glowing in the dark or anything. Most of the time those fatty acid chains are connected to other molecules – which then gives them their specific function.
There are different options to divide this food group into sections, but for me the following one makes the most sense:
Triacylglycerols (TAGs): They consist of three (tri-) fatty acids connected to a glycerol (sugar-alcohol compound). They’re mostly used as an energy source (delivering more energy per amount than protein or carbs) and for isolation (coating our organs). It’s the biggest group of fats we take in with food by far.
Polar Lipids: Their name is due to their chemical structure and therefore function as well (I won’t go into more detail about this now). There are different kinds of it, but essentially they’re the main ingredients of our cell coats – they provide stability and make it possible for our bodies to recognise our own cells.
Non saponifiable Lipids: That’s the most diverse group – basically, the rest. It’s steroids (for hormone production), terpenes (precursors of vitamins mainly) and eicosanoids (responsible for an intact immune system).
That’s a lot of words already (and I won’t go into more detail now, I promise) but I feel like it really helps to get a grasp of what the word fat really all includes. It’s so much more than the fat – and more than one would think at first.
One last thing about the good and bad fats maybe: So many people get completely caught up in this whole good/bad thing, it’s incredible – we’re only talking about fats and not human faith guys, okay? So, as you can see there are various types of fats and we need all of them to some extent. That’s a fact and that’s important. Nowadays, the unsaturated fats (double bond) are often more favourable than the simple fatty acids, because they’re for example the ones used for the immune system parts (you can find them in fish oil, linseed oil and other vegetable oils mostly). Also, because most fats we’re consuming with fried, cooked and fast food are simple fats – and we tend to get an overdose daily since our food is soaked with it. And that’s where the true problem lies. So, be mindful about how you balance your nutrition in terms of different types of food.
Let me know what you think about this post and whether you would like to hear more about nutrition in future articles! Also, let me know if and how this helped you with your approach to food!
Ps. Avocados – yes, we all love them. Are we crazy about how healthy they are? Crazy – yes, healthy – yes and no. So, while some green and creamy deliciousness can benefit your health, you still shouldn’t overdo it and have several avocados daily. Because they do not only contain unsaturated fats, but also saturated ones and quite a bit of cholesterol (which we tend to have too much nowadays anyway).