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Skinny Without Willpower

Monday, August 23, 2010


Try saying this 10 times as fast as you can! All jokes apart, in this article I would like to elucidate the difference between the various fat types and show which ones are good and which ones are to be avoided.

Edible fat can be categorized into four main types:

(i) Saturated Fat: The fat that is present in living cells and is derived mainly from animals and some plants. This type of fat has all the carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen atoms. These fats are abundantly present in animal sources and need no special extraction techniques and can withstand high heat without disintegration of free radicals. Mostly derived from milk and other animal sources. Some vegetable sources of these fats are coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter. These fats are solid at room temperature. These fats have received bad publicity in the recent decades due to bad research and good marketing by the vegetable oil and the pharmaceutical industry. Contrary to popular belief these fats haven’t been shown to increase long term cholesterol production in the human body. These fats are ideal for cooking at high temperatures due to their inherent stability at withstanding high heat.

(ii) Mono-unsaturated Fat: These fats are missing one hydrogen atom per C-C bond resulting in a double C=C bond. These fats are derived from nuts like walnuts and almonds and require no special processing techniques in order to derive as the nuts are rich in these types of fat. Olive oil is also rich in MUF and is derived by cold pressing olives which again are rich in oil. These fats have been found to be very healthy for the heart and for general well being. These fats cannot withstand very high heats like saturated fats. Best eaten raw or on salads.

(iii) Poly-unsaturated Fat: As it implies this type of fat has many more C=C double bonds and is mainly derived from vegetables and grains sources such as corn. Since these vegetables and grains are naturally low in fat a large quantity has to be processed in order to derive very little oil. These oils require a lot of processing with fancy chemicals and techniques such as hexane and supercritical carbon dioxide in order to remove impurities and prolong shelf life. In the process it loses most of the vitamins naturally present in the oil. These fats suppress immune response and are hence used in organ transplants. Believe it or not these oils were invented before human consumption for use in the paint industry, but after WWII and the post industrial revolution era the vegetable oil industry aggressively started promoting it as a healthy saturated fat substitute (based on an inconclusive study by Ancel Keys). Not suited for high temperature cooking these fats disintegrate to liberate free radicals that are the cause of a lot of modern aging ailments. Best used in salad dressings and low temperature cooking.

(iv) Trans-Fat: The only man-made fat that is derived by pumping hydrogen gas at a high pressure into poly-unsaturated vegetable fats at a high temperature in the presence of nickel catalyst. Contrary to popular belief repeated deep frying in vegetable oil doesn’t yield trans-fat due to the lack of a nickel catalyst to complete the reaction. This type of fat is to be avoided like the plague.

Contrary to popular belief the safest oil to cook in is saturated fat as it withstands high temperatures and doesn’t liberate harmful free radicals and hasn’t been conclusively shown to increase the body’s long term cholesterol production. Since the saturated and MUFs require the least amount of processing they are safest and healthiest to consume. PUFs are also safe to consume if not used for high temperature cooking and if they are balanced by an intake of saturated and MUFs.

Just remember one thing: saturated and mono-unsaturated fats are readily available in nature and have been consumed by humans for hundreds of thousands of years while the poly-unsaturated vegetable oils are a recent creation of the 20th century. Our bodies have evolved over several hundred thousand years consuming saturated and mono-unsaturated fats and so these are most biocompatible with the human body.

Food for thought: there was little use of edible vegetable oil before 1940s and one person in a million died of a heart attack. Now, 60 years after the rapid adoption of vegetable oil one person in 500 dies from a heart attack. Coincidence? I think not!

1 comment:

  1. 3 Studies REVEAL Why Coconut Oil Kills Waist Fat.

    The meaning of this is that you literally burn fat by eating coconut fats (also coconut milk, coconut cream and coconut oil).

    These 3 researches from big medical magazines are sure to turn the traditional nutrition world upside down!