Fats have a bad reputation – but they absolutely belong on our menu.
Read on to discover which ones are good, which are bad, and why. Fats play an important role for our bodies. They are vital for our brain, our nerves, for every single cell, and, therefore, for our overall health.
However, not all fats are created equal: there’s a difference between high-quality saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, and harmful trans fats.
Healthy fats in food: what are unsaturated fatty acids?
The body can produce most unsaturated fatty acids by itself. However, we absorb omega-3 and omega-6 through our diet. It’s only with the help of these essential fatty acids that our body can absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. Omega-6 is also important for the regulation of our energy production, and for healthy bones, skin, and hair.
In general, the more plant-based foods we eat the more we’re supplied with unsaturated fatty acids. These include grains, potatoes, vegetable oils, nuts and avocados, for example. Olive oil is largely made up of unsaturated fatty acids, and walnut, peanut, linseed, canola and safflower oils also contain plenty of healthy fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in green leafy vegetables, herbs, kale, cress and dandelion.
Why saturated fatty acids are also important?
Saturated fatty acids are mainly found in animal products, such as butter, milk, cream, cheese, sausages, bacon, meat, lard and suet, as well as in plant-based coconut oil, palm oil, palm fat and cocoa butter. They have an unjustified bad reputation, because they are essential for our body – supplying energy and protecting our organs.
Interestingly, studies have shown that the health benefits from nutrients increase when we choose high-quality products. Organic milk and butter, for example, also contain unsaturated fatty acids, and therefore have a completely different health value than processed foods.
Toxic trans fats? No, thanks!
This leads us to the bad fats that we should definitely eliminate from our diets! So-called trans fats are created when foods containing unsaturated fats are industrially processed or heated. They harm our health by promoting the development of inflammation in the body.
Trans fats can be found in almost all fat-laden convenience foods, as well as in margarine, chips, cookies, and nut-nougat spreads. In very small amounts, they can also be found in meat, fish and milk.
We should also be careful when frying and baking with the healthy oils: trans fats are formed at temperatures higher than 130C. The benefits of unsaturated fatty acids are then completely lost, while trans fats can lead to health problems. Coconut oil or butter, for example, are suitable for heating.
As a rule of thumb, if we cook fresh, home-made meals as much as possible and rely on high-quality, organic produce, then we’re providing our bodies with important, healthy fats!
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