Contrary to what you might think the body and brain need fat. In fact, over 60% of the brain is composed of fatty acids. There are healthy fats and unhealthy fats. Fat insulates the brain and nerve fibers, and makes up a large component of the cell membrane. The cell membrane allows nutrients into the cell and the removal of waste products from the cell. The cell membrane contains receptors for hormones that improve the function of the body. Fats are critical to the function of the immune system.
The Healthy Fats
Healthy fats to include in your diet are the monounsaturated fats and the omega-3 fatty acids which are a type of polyunsaturated fats. These fats do not produce inflammation, do not suppress the immune system, and do not adversely affect cholesterol levels. Healthy fats decrease the risk of depression, too.
- Monounsaturated fats include: olive oil, peanut oil, avocado oil, and canola oil.
- Omega-3 fatty acids include: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are found in fish oil.
Fats: the Bad and Ugly
Some fats are unhealthy, though. These include the trans fats, saturated fats and the many of the omega-6 fatty acids which are a type of polyunsaturated fat. These fats weaken the immune system. Saturated and trans fats make the cell membrane more rigid and less permeable hindering the transport of nutrients into the cell and the removal of waste products from the cell.
Saturated fats are found in cheese, butter, and cream, meats, and in tropical oils (coconut and palm). They raise the risk of insulin resistance and the risk of colon cancer.
Trans fats also go by the name hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat (but not all hydrogenated fats are trans fats). These fats are artificially made for the purpose of extending the shelf life of a food product. Margarine and vegetable shortening are examples of trans fats. Take a close look at food labels. You will be surprised the number of food products that contain these unhealthy fats.
Trans fats increase the LDL (bad) cholesterol and decrease the HDL (good) cholesterol and are linked to heart disease.
Omega-6 fatty acids include linoleic acid (LA), gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), dihomogammalinolenic acid (DHGLA), and arachidonic acid (AA). These fatty acids are pro-inflammatory. Arachidonic acid is found in red meat (which we recommend be limited to twice a week). Linoleic acid is found in safflower, sunflower, and soy. These fats tend to oxidate in the body damaging DNA and increasing the risk of disease and cancer.
Give Your Body an Oil Change
If you want to keep you car running change the oil frequently, right? You can actually give your body an oil change, too. By substituting healthy fats for the unhealthy fats over a period of 3 months and longer you will slowly transform the composition of your cell membranes and yourself. Your cell membranes will become more flexible and will allow for better absorption of nutrients into the cell. Hormone activity will improve and you will rid your cells of toxic wastes. Your skin will look healthier. You will feel better. You will have more energy. And, you will reduce your risk of disease. All of that simply by eating healthy fats.
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