August 21st, 2019

From Our Table: The facts on fats

By Chris Brown on November 6, 2018.

Fat in our diets has tended to get a really bad rap. Fat is actually one of the six essential nutrients, along with water, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals and fat. As with any food or nutrient it is possible to get too much, even of an essential part of a healthy diet. Let’s take a closer look at fat.

Why is fat good?

Dietary fat is a source of energy and provides a feeling of fullness or satiety when you eat. Essential fatty acids are required for optimum health. Fats have many vital functions such as cell structure, hormonal components, storing energy, insulating the body as well as cushioning organs. Fats also play a key role in helping the body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

What types of fat are there?

Dietary fats are made up of fatty acids and these fatty acids are categorized according to their chemical structure. They also have different effects on the body’s blood cholesterol levels.

1. Monounsaturated fats are omega-9 fatty acids and they have only one double bond giving the name “mono” or one. This typically makes them liquid at room temperature. This is a good type of fat in that it lowers blood cholesterol levels in the body by increasing the high density lipids levels — the good type of cholesterol that clears unwanted fat and buildup out of the blood vessels. A common example of a monounsaturated fat is olive oil.

2. Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and have two or more double bonds hence the name “poly.” They also stay liquid at room temperature. This type of fat also tends to lower blood cholesterol by decreasing low density lipids (LDL) that tend to block blood vessels and cause heart disease and stroke. An example of a polyunsaturated fat is sunflower or canola oil.

3. Saturated fats get their name because chemically they are saturated with hydrogen and have only single bonds no double bonds. They stay solid at room temperature. They also tend to raise LDL blood cholesterol levels possibly increasing the risk of heart disease. An example of a saturated fat would be coconut oil, lard or butter.

4. Trans fats is the byproduct of taking a polyunsaturated fat and doing a chemical process called hydrogenation where hydrogen is added to these unsaturated fatty acids turning liquid oils into semi-solid fats. These are recognized by the body as a saturated fat and can potentially increase LDL (bad fat) levels and increase risk of heart disease. Fortunately our government has done much work to lower the trans fat level in foods and soon it should be very rarely seen on an ingredient list. An example is some margarines.

How much fat should we have?

The Institute of Medicine recognizes that there is not an exact number for everyone rather a healthy range. The recommendations encourage Canadians to keep fat consumption to between 20-35 per cent of total calories. For example, if you ate 2,000 calories and 30 per cent was from fat that would mean 600 calories. There are nine calories in each gram of fat so that would translate to 67 grams of fat daily as maximum. A 200-gram portion of broiled salmon has 16 grams of fat. They also recommend limiting saturated fats and especially limiting trans fat. Surveys show that most Canadians stay within the range with only 25 per cent exceeding the recommendation.

Olive oil is one of my favourite sources of fat. One of the jewels of Medicine Hat is The Hat’s Olive Tap downtown on Second Street. They have every flavour of olive oil you could ever dream of and more. Garlic and Tuscan Herb are a couple of my favourites. In 2004 the Food and Drug Administration approved olive oil for a qualified health claim acknowledging its heart health benefits as a monounsaturated fat.

Here is a simple delicious heart healthy recipe using that features the marvellous monounsaturated fat olive oil.

It’s perfect for dipping raw veggies.

Joanne Smith is a registered dietitian.

Edamame Hummus – perfect for dipping raw veggies.

1 – 13 ounce bag frozen edamame beans

1/4 cup coarsely chopped onion

1/3 cup water

2 cloves peeled garlic

1/2 cup firmly packed kale

1/3 cup olive oil

2 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

In a large saucepan combine the edamame beans, onion and water. Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer keep covered and simmer for 10 minutes or until the edamame beans are tender.

Put garlic in food processor and chop fine. Add kale, olive oil and lemon juice and process until chopped fine. Add edamame mixture including water, and process until smooth.

Serve with cut up veggies.

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