Love that title! I’m actually not that clever. I heard that somewhere and it’s stuck. I’ve read so many articles and watched so many videos, I really don’t remember where I heard it. Newest research shows that dietary fat does not make you fat. Healthy fats such as omega-3s are antioxidants and help with reducing blood cholesterol.
Saturated fat, unsaturated fat, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated … It can all be so confusing! Hopefully I can help you out with understanding it all. And the biggest question I hear all the time: “Doesn’t eating fat make you fat?” The short answer is NO! Sugar is the real problem. I’ll get into that shortly but first we’re going to talk a little about chemistry. I know. I feel the same way. I’ll try to keep it brief but what makes a fat saturated, unsaturated, mono- or poly- is all about chemistry. Oh, and let’s not forget about the omega fats too! It’s all chemistry.
The type of fat is all about the strands of fatty acids. They are made up of strings of carbon atoms. They bond to each other and to hydrogen atoms, starting with a carboxyl group (COOH):
When a fatty acid is “saturated” it is saturated with hydrogens and have no double bonds. When a fatty acid is “unsaturated” some of the carbon atoms are only bonded to one hydrogen and have a double bond with the carbon atom next to it. Depending where the hydrogen atom bonds to the carbon, it is considered a cis or trans bond:
So, in a nutshell, monounsaturated has one double bond (mono meaning one), polyunsaturated has many double bonds (poly meaning many). Omega-3 fatty acids have their first double bond at the 3rd carbon from the omega end (the opposite end from the carboxyl group meaning the other end from the COOH group).
A saturated fatty acid is saturated with hydrogens that form straight lines and can pack tightly together. This is why a saturated fat stays solid at room temperature. It takes a higher temperature to break the bonds and melt. Hydrogenation is a process in which hydrogen is pumped into an unsaturated fat forcing it to bond to hydrogen atoms. This creates a fatty acid that can withstand higher temperatures. Hydrogenated oils are typically used for frying.
The number of carbons determines if it is a short, medium, or long chain fatty acid. MCT oil is quite the buzz right now. This just means it is a medium chain triglyceride having 6 – 12 carbons. Triglycerides are three (tri) fatty acids bonded to a glyceride. This forms through the carboxyl group (COOH) end. Small and medium chain fatty acids are absorbed through the stomach wall. They are absorbed differently since they are small enough to enter the blood stream directly. Long chain fatty acids are digested and absorbed through the small intestine with chylomicrons and need to enter the lymph system first. Have you ever seen oil and water mix? Yea, it doesn’t. So it needs a carrier to be sent to the liver to be metabolized.
So, getting back to the big question: Why doesn’t fat make you fat? Well, it’s all about our metabolism. The original thinking was that fat has 9 calories/gram and carbohydrates and protein have 4 calories/gram. So by eating more fat you’ll consume more calories and thus gain weight easier. What they’ve found is that all calories are not created equal, meaning that we metabolize fat, carbohydrates, and protein differently. Healthy fats provide satiety and we naturally eat less. Carbohydrates stimulate an insulin response which triggers our body to go into fat storing mode, and you need to eat more carbohydrates to feel satiated. By shifting your diet to eating higher amounts of healthy fats while consuming lower amounts of carbohydrates this will stimulate your metabolism, switching you to fat burning instead of fat storing. It’s all about our hormones and metabolism.
A good nutrition plan takes into account any other health issues you have going on, your lifestyle (work environment, exercise, stress), plus putting together a plan that works with your household. Remember that the stress hormone, cortisol, puts you into fat storage mode as well. So I’ll take a look at what’s going on in your life so we can work on strategies that can put you on a path to achieve optimal health.