What if I told you that you needed to consume more fats to stay at a healthy weight. Initially I did not believe it but after learning about the different types of fats it all makes sense. Let’s review the different types of fats, their benefits and how to consume them.
Before we continue, I will interchangeably be referring to fats as lipids. Now let’s start with Triglycerides. It is the most prevalent class of lipids. These are the fats that can be stored and used for energy. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides. The triglycerides are stored in your fat cells.
Triglycerides consist of 3 fatty acids and one glycerol molecule. Short chain fatty acids have 4 to 5 carbon atoms. Medium chain fatty acids can contain 6 to 12 carbon atoms. Long chain fatty acids can contain 13 to 19 carbon atoms. Just in case you were wondering.
Unsaturated Fatty Acids
Unsaturated fatty acids are liquid at room temp. They are not saturated to the maximal
extent and therefore have available sites to which hydrogen atoms can bond therefore making them unsaturated.
There are several types of unsaturated fats:
- Mono-unsaturated fats. Can be found in olives, avocados, canola and peanut oils.
- Poly-unsaturated fats are found in corn oil, safflower oil, and sesame oil.
- Required by the body when the primary essential fatty acids are limited.
- Essential fatty acids (EFAs) main source is vitamin F.
- Must be ingested in the diet.
- Essential for brain and nerve functions.
- Lowers cholesterol and lowers blood pressure.
- Reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids are Essential Fatty Acids. They cannot be made by the body but must be consumed. When looking at the qualities of essential fatty acids, it appears these two must be healthy right? They are both essential but they play very opposite roles in the body.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Types: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) derived from the essential fatty acid linoleic acid.
Source: Obtained by cold-water fish (salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel, cod and tuna). I personally take 3 Omega-3 vitamins everyday.
Benefits: Lowers cholesterol. Minimizes prevalence of heart disease and enhances athletic performance and strength. EPA and DHA are the building blocks for hormones that control immune function, blood clotting, and cell growth as well as components of cell membranes.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Types: Alpha-linolenic Acid and Arachodonic Acid
Source: Vegetable oil, corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, as well as poultry and eggs.
Benefits: Most health conscious individuals try to eliminate this fatty acid from their diets as they tend to increase inflammation, blood clotting and cell proliferation. This is the opposite of the Omega-3.
The imbalance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 may lead to obesity. 
So far fats sound positive and healthy until we come across Trans-fat. Trans-fatty Acids are associated with heart disease, diabetes, etc. They are often found in fried foods, packaged snack foods, popcorn, piecrust, pizza dough, doughnuts, cookies, margarine and crackers…all of the delicious and addictive food. Most of these are artificial trans-fats but there are naturally occurring trans-fats that can be found in animals. Although these are considered to be natural, it does not mean they are healthy. Long story short STAY AWAY FROM TRANS-FATS.
There was a lot going on in the unsaturated fats world. Not so much for saturated fats so this should be short.
Saturated fatty acids have no available sites for hydrogen atoms to bond and are thus considered to be at maximum saturation. They are solid at room temperature and have a long shelf life. They typically come from animals but can be found in palm oil and coconut oil. Saturated fats can be found in whole milk, creams, butter and ice cream. Side note: if you go on the ketogenic diet, you will find yourself using saturated fats often.
Medium-chain Triglycerides enter directly into the bloodstream and pass over the intestines. They are readily available for a source of energy and are often used by athletes to aid in training. May be preferred over glycogen for energy. To be brief, when doing long duration workouts, you are utilizing glycogen stores as you work aerobically. Anaerobic workouts cause for a quick energy source. This includes your high intensity workouts. You begin to utilize fats over carbohydrates otherwise known as being in ketosis. When hitting ketosis during workouts, the fats are used for energy but only for a short duration of time. You will either begin to burn out or lower intensity and eventually begin utilizing the glycogen storage. For maximum results, hit ketosis a few times and watch how your body changes.
We have completed triglycerides but there are two more types of lipids: phospholipids and sterols. We will dig deeper into those two in Lipids: Part 2.