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Are there good fats and bad fats?

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Trying to make the article less scientific and more “palatable”, below we will analyze individually (but without going into detail) all types of dietary fats/lipids; in particular, we will try to describe its functional impact on the organism distinguishing good fats from bad ones.

Simple Fats: Are They Good or Bad?

Aliphatic alcohols, terpene alcohols and triterpene dialcohols
They are organic compounds (similar to fatty acids) naturally present in foods which, determining the basic structure of essential oils, give the typical “aroma” to foods (e.g.: menthol, citronellol…). They are MINOR lipid compounds to be considered GOOD FATS on average.
NB. The best-known alcohols in nutrition are METHANOL and ETHANOL, two molecules naturally LITTLE present (or present only in trace amounts) in foods. The first is a TOXIC fuel for the body (therefore a BAD molecule), while the second is a less toxic product (although dose-dependent) present in fermented and distilled drinks.

Sterols:
They are chemical compounds deriving from sterolo (chemically defined as a polycyclic compound made up of four rings). They differ in zoosterol (present in animal organisms: cholesterol, steroid hormones and vitamin D) e phytosterols (present in plant organisms: the best known are campesterol, sitosterol and stigmasterol).

  • Dietary zoosterols are naturally present in foods of animal origin; the most important are the cholesterol (considered a BAD FAT because its excess in the blood is responsible for the increase in mortality from cardiovascular diseases) and the various forms of vitamin. D or calciferol (considered a GOOD FAT as it acts as an ESSENTIAL vitamin or provitamin for bone calcification and the prevention of osteoporosis).
  • Food phytosterols (and similarly stanols and policosanols) are contained above all in some seasoning oils, legumes, vegetables and fruit; they represent a range of molecules with different functions, including: antioxidant, anticancer, hypocholesterolemic, estrogen-like; it would be essential to dedicate an entire chapter to their functions but, what is certain, is that they are considered absolutely GOOD FATS.

Tocopheroli:
Also known as vit. E. They are a group of ESSENTIAL molecules (contained in vegetable oils and vegetables) as they perform antioxidant and antithrombotic blood thinning functions. They absolutely should be included among the GOOD FATS.

Hydrocarbons:
They are organic compounds without the functional group. They include two categories of molecules (aliphatic and aromatic), different from both a chemical and physical-structural point of view; in this regard, it is however essential to remember that: “in violent cooking and at very high temperatures, the carbonization of some macronutrients gives rise to the formation of polynucleated aromatic hydrocarbonsalso called aromatic polycyclics (such as ANTHRACENE), and to acrolein. These, in addition to being polluting agents, have a highly toxic, irritating and carcinogenic effect.”
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and acrolein are volatile lipid derivatives considered ABSOLUTELY BAD FATS (to be avoided or consumed in the minimum possible quantity).

Complex Fats: Are They Good or Bad?

Fatty acids and tri-, di-, mono-acylglycerols (glycerol esters or triglycerides):
They are lipids useful for energy supply; Fatty acids provide 9kcal/g and should represent between 25 and 30% of calories in the diet. There is an essential difference in the quality of fatty acids, which at first glance can be differentiated into SATURATED and UNSATURATED;

  • SATURATED FATS (mainly deriving from animal foods) are commonly defined as BAD FATS because, despite providing the same calories as others, they tend to raise circulating LDL cholesterol, favoring the onset of cardiovascular diseases.
  • The UNSATURES (mainly deriving from plant-based foods), on the contrary, are very useful in the preservation and cooking of foods (monounsaturated, mainly contained in extra virgin olive oil), and also include a category of molecules, some of which are essential ( polyunsaturated acids, contained mainly in seasoning oils, dried fruit, oily fish and fish oil). These so-called essential fatty acids (AGEs or PUFAs) belong to the family of omega3 (contained mainly in oily fish, fish oil, krill oil and some vegetable oils) and omega6 (contained mainly in vegetable oils and dried fruit), and have very important functions for the body.
  • Ultimately, monounsaturated fatty acids can be considered GOOD FATS as long as they are supplied in a suitable quantity, a quantity beyond which, like SATURATED and NON-essential polyunsaturated fatty acids, they contribute to an increase in body weight due to adipose deposit; while ESSENTIAL polyunsaturated fatty acids, if introduced in the right reciprocal ratio (omega3:omega6 = 1:3 or more in favor of omega3), are considered absolutely GOOD FATS.

NB. There is a category of INDUSTRIALLY MANIPULATED lipids defined as HYDROGENATED FATS; these, despite being originally unsaturated, are industrially subjected to hydrogenation to acquire the physical properties of SATURATES. From a metabolic point of view they behave exactly like saturated fatty acids BUT sometimes they contain a considerable quantity of TRANS fatty acids, UNWANTED molecules (naturally present only in traces in foods). Hydrogenated fats, and especially trans molecules, are considered ABSOLUTELY BAD FATS like or worse than saturated fats (to be avoided or consumed in the minimum possible quantity).

Phospholipids:
They are esters of glycerol associated with fatty acids and a phosphate group; they are contained above all in offal (brain) and represent fundamental molecules above all for the constitution of the “polar liquid mosaic”, typical of cell membranes, and the structuring of the myelin sheaths of the nervous system. The body is also able to produce them autonomously, therefore, from a nutritional point of view they are considered GOOD FATS but not ESSENTIAL.

Sterol esters: See above: Sterols.

Cere:
They are not nutritionally important lipids but are sometimes used as additives (carnauba wax and beeswax). In nutrition, the most famous wax is pruina, a natural protective film of the grapes; on the contrary, beeswax is separated from honey and therefore is not a significant food component. Waxes do not represent a BAD FAT but neither are they a GOOD or ESSENTIAL FAT.

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