Cholesterol, hydrogenated, trans, saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated fats, omega-6, omega-3… Decidedly, it is not easy to navigate the world of fats!
However, this is a subject that deserves special attention, because these different fats all have a significant effect – positive or negative – on the functioning of our body.
Learning to distinguish between good and bad fats can therefore have extraordinary repercussions on our health.
The good fats
Monounsaturated fatty acids, found mainly in olive oil, are fats with extremely positive effects on health because they lower bad cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
These positive effects have been well documented thanks, in particular, to the observation of the inhabitants of the islands of Crete and Sardinia, who use olive oil as their main fat and who are very little affected by these diseases, which gives an above-average life expectancy.
Polyunsaturated fats can be divided into two main classes: omega-3 and omega-6. These two types of fat are called essential fatty acids, that is, they are essential for the proper functioning of the body. But we are unable to develop them by ourselves. They must therefore absolutely be assimilated from the diet.
It’s easy for omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in several foods (meat, eggs, etc.) and especially in certain vegetable oils (corn and sunflower, for example). On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids are much more rare, being mainly present in certain plant sources such as nuts, soybeans, rapeseed oil and flax seeds, as well as in certain fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines.
These differences in origin must be taken into account, because our organism is adapted to function with a balanced content of polyunsaturated fatty acids, therefore with as many omega-3s as omega-6s.
Unfortunately, with the significant changes due to the industrialization of food products, in particular the excessive use of vegetable oils rich in omega-6 in the preparation of several products, this balance no longer exists today and most of between us consume about 25 times more omega-6 than omega-3. The consequences of this imbalance for health are dramatic, because when they are in excess, omega-6s promote inflammation and prevent the development of certain omega-3 derivatives essential for many physiological processes.
Many studies indicate that this omega-6 overload coupled with omega-3 deficiency is directly responsible for the development of several cardiovascular, inflammatory, neurological and even cancer diseases.
So, if at first glance omega-6s should be considered good fats, they can however become bad if their quantity exceeds that of omega-3s too much.
…and the really bad guys!
Saturated fats, found mainly in red meat and dairy products, increase blood cholesterol and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers, especially prostate cancer. The consumption of these fats must therefore be closely monitored.
It is because of this view that for many years margarine was offered as a valid replacement for butter, being made from omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. However, during manufacturing, these fats are modified to give them a solid consistency, which causes the formation of trans fats, extremely harmful substances that promote the development of coronary heart disease.
In addition to being present in margarine, trans fats are found in various other foods – pastries, cookies, chips, snacks – and it goes without saying that extreme moderation must be exercised with these industrial products. The complete elimination of these harmful fats, begun recently, can therefore only be positive, provided of course that they are not replaced by fats which also have a negative impact on health!
In summary, an increase in the intake of monounsaturated fats and omega-3 polyunsaturates coupled with a reduction in that of omega-6 and saturated fats is a very simple way to improve the quality of fats assimilated by the body. , and thus contribute to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
1) Adding freshly ground flaxseed to morning cereal is one of the easiest ways to significantly increase omega-3 intake in your diet.
2) Use olive or rapeseed oil as often as possible instead of butter or other vegetable oils containing little omega-3 (corn, sunflower).
3) Eat fish rich in omega-3 two or three times a week.