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June 20, 2018  |  Login
By James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.
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Fats to Avoid

Read ingredient labels closely to determine which foods contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats. These "synthetic fats" cause oxidation and cell damage. Common food sources include margarine, cookies, crackers, salad dressings, and many commercial baked items. Alternative foods that do not contain these harmful fatty acids are available.


Most people fear fat, because they associate it with obesity. However, to be healthy, humans require fat in the diet. The key is to eat the right kind of fats and to reduce or avoid harmful fats. Fat is required to produce energy; for healthy brain development and function; for normal growth and development; to absorb fat-soluble vitamins; for healthy skin, nails, and hair; for a healthy immune system; and for many other vital functions. All fats are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules. The differences between fats come down to the number of carbon atoms in each type of fat and the way they are arranged. There are three main categories of fats:

Monounsaturated fat refers to fatty acids that have one double bond. The double bond affects the function of the fatty acids and makes the fat useful for certain cell functions. Monounsaturated fatty acids are healthful and are found in foods such as avocados and olive oil.

Polyunsaturated fats comprise all of the essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids must be obtained through the diet, as the body cannot manufacture them. Polyunsaturated fatty acids contain more than one double bond. Good sources are fish such as salmon and mackerel, as well as flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, walnuts, soybeans, and certain other plant foods.

The term saturated fats means that all the carbon molecules are filled (saturated) with hydrogen molecules. This makes the fats solid to semisolid at room temperature. Examples of foods that are high in saturated fats include red meat, pork, and dairy products. Lard is another one. Some oils, such as palm and coconut oil, contain high amounts of saturated fats. There is a role for saturated fats in the body. For example, they are one component of brain cells. However, most people tend to go overboard with foods that contain saturated fats; the consumption of these fats is associated with an increased susceptibility to cancer, heart disease, and inflammatory conditions. Saturated fat is also known to be a storehouse for many different types of toxins.

Essential Fatty Acids

It is important that you not only consume foods with essential fatty acids but also maintain a proper balance of these good fats. As mentioned earlier, the body cannot ­ manufacture essential fatty acids. They are so vital to life, humans cannot live without them. Two types of fatty acids are considered essential. They are alpha linolenic acid (ALA), of the omega-3 family, and linoleic acid (LA), from the omega-6 family.

Three Families of Fatty Acids

Most of the research in regard to fatty acids has been done with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. A third type, known as omega-9 fatty acids, is also important, but not much is yet known about all of its roles. The numbering of fatty acids (e. more

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