Part 2: Unsaturated and Trans Fats
In part 1, we learned that we do need some fats, and why saturated fats are not so good for us. In part 2, we'll learn about unsaturated and trans fats. In the last part, we will learn how to incorporate heart healthy fats into our diets.
Monounsaturated fats have one double bond. Sometimes monounsaturated fats are called omega 9 fatty acids, a term which describes where the double bond is in oleic acid, the most common monounsaturated fat.
Monounsaturated fats are used in our bodies mainly to make cell membranes. Cell membranes that are mostly monounsaturated fat are flexible and fluid, so they can adapt to different conditions.
Nuts and avocadoes are high in monounsaturated. Olive oil is mostly monounsaturated fat. Other oils that contain good amounts of monounsaturated fats are peanut oil and canola oil.
Sometimes you'll see polyunsaturated fats called PUFA's (polyunsaturated fatty acids). PUFA's have more than one double bond, so they can participate in metabolic activities. Their shape makes them flexible, kind of like a spring, and they are an important component of cell membranes, especially in some specialized areas of the body. Most of the polyunsaturated fats we use are omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids.
Omega 6 fatty acids
Omega 6 fatty acids are essential for a number of metabolic processes, and especially for the inflammatory response. Inflammation is a response to some kind of threat to the body. Inflammation can occur at the cellular level or it can be a systemic (whole body) response.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are also essential for metabolic processes. Omega 3 fatty acids balance the omega 6 fatty acids, and they have an anti-inflammatory response.
Additionally, a particular type of omega 3 fatty acid, DHA, is an essential component of brain and nervous system cells, eye cells and sperm.
Few of us get enough omega 3 fatty acids. Many of the "diseases of civilization," such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis have been linked to omega 3 deficiency. Specifically, research has proven that adding omega 3 fatty acids to your diet helps prevent heart disease.
Omega6: Omega3 Fatty Acid Ratio
Ideally, omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids balance each other out. We are not sure yet what the ideal ratio between them is, but we think we need about twice as much omega 6 fatty acids as we do omega 3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, in the Standard Western diet, we get about thirty (30) times as much omega 6 fatty acids. Many people feel this is why we have high rates of heart disease and other illnesses.
Trans fats are made when other fats are heated to high temperatures. Oddly enough, trans fats have the same chemical formulas as polyunsaturated fats. It's their shape that's different. They bend the wrong way, which prompts them from participating in the metabolic reactions that PUFA's do.
Like saturated fats, trans fats are stiff and inflexible. When they are incorporated into cell membranes, the cells can not function normally.
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