All components of life are made up of four basic elements, including the foods you eat. Each component comprises of various amounts of some or all four of these elements. Take water for instance which has two atoms of (H) hydrogen and one atom of (O) oxygen, while fats (lipids) are composed of mostly (C) carbon, (H) hydrogen and (O) oxygen.
There are four major dietary fats in the foods we eat:
Saturated Fats – You will find saturated fat in all animal products such as butter, whole milk, half-and-half, and meat fat and coconut oil.
Trans Fats – Are a byproduct of a process called hydrogenation that is used to turn healthy oils into solids and to prevent them from becoming rancid. The vegetable products high in saturated fats and trans fatty acids are palm oil, palm kernel oil, cocoa butter (chocolate), coconut oil, solid shortening, and partially hydrogenated oils.
Monounsaturated Fats – Help to protect the heart and support insulin sensitivity, fat storage, weight loss, and healthy energy levels. Healthy choices include avocado, macadamia nuts, and some high-quality first cold-pressed olive oils. Peanuts tend to be high in molds, which produce aflatoxin, a toxin perceived to cause cancer. Omega-9 fatty acids aren’t strictly “essential,” meaning they can be produced by the body. Omega-9 fats are the most abundant fats, found in most cells in the body.
Polyunsaturated Fats – Include Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats. Omega 3’s reduce inflammation, support healthy hormone levels and cell membranes. However Omega 6 fatty acids are important to support healthy brain and muscle functions but, on the downside, they can promote inflammation in the body.
So let’s talk about Essential Fatty Acids:
The fatty acids that are fundamental to your body, but not naturally synthesized within the body, must, therefore, be acquired from your diet.
These are known as essential fatty acids, and there are three basic ones: linoleic acid, linolenic acid, and arachidonic acid.
Linoleic Acid – Linoleic acid (LA) is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid and is one of two essential fatty acids for humans, who must obtain it through their diet. Promotes healthy skin and hair and is the main essential fatty acid.
Linolenic Acid – α-Linolenic acid (ALA) is an n−3 fatty acid, so-called because they are necessary for health and cannot be produced within the human body. Promotes healthy nerve and brain function.
Arachidonic Acid – Arachidonic acid (AA, sometimes ARA) is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid. Supports the formation of prostaglandins, thromboxanes, prostacyclins, and leukotrienes.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are utilized in the production of cholesterol, an anti-inflammatory lipid used to make steroids and phospholipids. Cholesterol is required for the synthesis of vitamin D.
Essential Fatty Acids are required for the proper structure and function of all the cells in the body and are essential for optimal health. They improve the absorption of vitamins and minerals while supporting proper nerve functioning; they also help produce hormones; nourish the hair, skin, and nails; ensure our healthy growth and development; and prevent and treat dis-ease.
Seaweed and algae are great sources of omega-3 for people on a vegetarian or vegan diet, as they are one of the few plant groups that contain DHA and EPA. Seeds such as chia, hemp, flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower all contain Omega 3 and 6 fats. Fruit such as avocado and certain dark green leafy vegetables, including kale, spinach, purslane, mustard greens, and collards would be a great addition to a healthy lifestyle.
So eat good healthy and beneficial fats, but do it sparingly and wisely.