Can Bad Fats be Good?
It’s no mystery that by now, most of us have heard that there are good fats and bad fats and that we should avoid bad fats. But is our notion of bad fats really true? Traditionally, it is commonly thought that saturated fats are “bad” and unsaturated fats are the ideal fats to include in our diet. What we fail to acknowledge are the sources and type of saturated and unsaturated fats as there are both beneficial and detrimental fats in each category.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature making them more stable than unsaturated fats. These fats also are not as vulnerable to becoming randc and less likely to form harmful free radicals. Our body is able to make saturated fats and so these fats are not considered “essential”.
Examples of saturated fat: butter and coconut oil
There’s a lot of science behind fats and their composition. To avoid going into too much detail, it is important to know that fatty acids can be divided by the length of the carbon chain they contain (short-, medium-, and long-chain fats).
• Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyric acid, found in butterfat
• Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), such as coconut oil
• Long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs), such as animal fat (beef, pork)
The varying chain lengths have different effects on our bodies. In general, LCFAs, the most common saturated fats in nature, have negative consequences related to cardiovascular disease. As a result, this is a type of fat that we should avoid (i.e. red meat)
SCFAs and MCFAs, on the other hand, are not very common in foods, but they have some important positive effects including promotiong fat loss, reducing inflammation, and better metabolization compared to long chain fatty acids (i.e. coconut oil, palm kernel oil).
In the past, all saturated fats were thought to raise serum cholesterol levels. Therefore, these oils were replaced by “hydrogenated” oils. However, when a healthy unsaturated fat is “partially hydrogenated,” it is chemically altered to make it more like a long-chain saturated fat, reducing its potential for rancidity but also stripping its health benefits. This process may cause the formation of trans fats, such as those found in shortening and margarine; which carry serious negative health effects that should be avoided.