Trans Fats? Types Of Fat, The Smoke Point Of Fats & Why It’s All Important
There are several types of fats used in cooking and food preparation. Each type of fat has an effect on the body. In this article, I’ll go through the types of fats, why each of them are important and which ones you should eat.
We can read a lot on the internet about saturated fats being ‘bad fats’, at least until very recently. Have you ever asked yourself:
Exactly what IS a saturated fat?
A saturated fat is a fat that has:
‘a triglyceride molecule containing three saturated fatty acids.’
Pretty scientific stuff…So what does THAT mean? Fatty acids molecules look like chains made up of carbon atoms. All the carbon atoms in the fatty acid chains of saturated fats connect by a single bond. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and usually come from animal sources.
Good examples are: butter, cheese, lard and meat.
That said, we do have saturated fats in the plant world, such as: solid shortening, palm oil and coconut oil.
Saturated fats are routinely demonized. Te reason being they can raise blood cholesterol levels, here’s why:
Saturated fat can interfere with the entry of cholesterol into cells where needed. This leaves cholesterol in the bloodstream longer. There, it can can become a part of the plaque that builds up in the blood vessels.
According to Pub Med, there are studies showing that saturated fats can raise blood cholesterol. In most cases, these studies were short term; a few weeks at most. In longer term studies, this reaction seemed to change in almost all cases. Interesting… So what’s the answer to the saturated fat question? My answer is: balance. Maintain a balanced eating plan that includes both saturated fats and unsaturated fats.
Trans Fats are a manufactured fat through a process called: hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is a chemical process that changes a liquid oil into a solid fat.
Here’s the basic recipe for hydrogenating an oil:
First, the oil gets heated to a very high temperature. Temperatures range somewhere between five-hundred and one-thousand degrees and under atmospheres of pressure. Then, the manufacturer adds a catalyst. The catalyst is usually a metal, such as nickel, platinum or aluminum. (I know what you are think….Metal in our food? YUK!) As the mixture cooks, the structure of the oil changes. The molecules in the oil rearrange themselves and increase in density. The result becomes a fat that is either semi-solid or solid.
We have named semi-solid hydrogenated oils: ‘partially hydrogenated’. We’ve all seen that word on packaging….
When you see the word ‘hydrogenated’ on a package, it means that the oil is fully hydrogenated.
You can find trans fats in most processed foods:
- •packaged snack foods
- •packaged cookies
- •fast foods
- •stick or solid margarines
Trans fats raise cholesterol levels faster and higher than any saturated fat. Trans fats should be AVOIDED completely. Whenever you see the word hydrogenated in front of any oil name on a package, avoid it like the plague. Keep in mind two points about hydrogenated oils:
Hydrogenated oil is poisonous to the human body.
Its chemical structure comes closer to plastic than oil.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the two types of unsaturated fats.
The American Heart Association defines monounsaturated fats as:
‘fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule’.
Oils containing monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. If you cool a monounsaturated fat, it will start to solidify.
Some great sources for monounsaturated fats are:
- •avocados and avocado oil
- •olives and olive oil
- •nuts, especially hazelnuts and macadamia nuts
- •fish, such as halibut, herring, mackerel and sablefish
The American Heart Association defines polyunsaturated fats as::
‘fat molecules that have more than one unsaturated carbon bond’
Excellent food sources for monounsaturated fats are:
- •sunflower seeds
- •flax seeds or flax oil≤/li≥
- fish, such as salmon mackerel, herring, albacore tuna, and trout
Both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats may help lower your blood cholesterol level. That said, stay balanced; keep your total fat intake between 25 and 35% of the calories you eat.
The Smoke Point Of Fats & Why It Is Important:
To enhance the flavor of food and create and maintain great health it’s crucial to know how to use fats.
For some of the more delicate oils, even moderate heating will scorch the oil. Others oils are more robust, tougher by nature, and can weather the higher heats.
When you overheat an oil, it deteriorates, chemically. The oil breaks down and forms toxic compounds. The rate of the breakdown and the formation of toxic compounds, depends on two things:
- •the type of oil
- •the temperature at which it’s heated
The decomposition first creates hyperoxides and then increasing levels of aldehydes.
Hmmm…pretty complicated stuff. Wonder what those are?
Hydroperoxides are: ‘a derivative of hydrogen peroxide’.
Aldehydes are:’toxic compounds and recognized as markers of oxidative stress in cells’.
Aldehydes are contributors to degenerative illnesses.
So what does it mean for you when you eat an oil that’s burn’t? If eat a burnt oil, you are inviting free radicals into your body. They will begin their violent pillaging of your cells.
Here are a couple of dishes that I stay away from to avoid burnt oils:
- •fried foods
- •brown butter
- •blackened meats
- This is especially true when I eat in restaurants. More often than not, GMO canola oil that has a burn point of 350 degrees Fahrenheit.So how can you avoid burning an oil? Take a look at our handy chart:’The Smoke Point of Fats’, to help you cook with the right oils for the right temperature. A good rule of thumb is to watch for smoke in the pan. If your oil is smoking, it’s beginning to break down.
Fats are essential to delicious food and a healthy body. Here are the points to remember:
- • Eat with balance. Include a mix of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats in your diet.
- • Avoid trans fats.
- • Your total fat intake should be between 25 and 35% of your total calories.
- • Don’t burn oils in cooking.
- • Download our handy chart ‘The Smoke Point of Fats‘.