Do You Know the Difference Between Short Chains & Long Chain Fats? Why is it important that Coconut oil has medium chain fatty acids?
Take control of your health and learn more about how eating healthy fats is vital to good health.
I believe of all the basic components of nutrition, fat is the most misunderstood and inaccurately portrayed, due to America’s obsession with weight, diets and dietary fat. Medical and health professionals with little or no education in fats and oils reinforce this negative image of fat. All too often these same professionals work or receive money from companies who benefit from the public’s misconception and confusion about dietary fat. Do you know the difference between short chain and long chain fats, trans fats from omegas, saturated versus unsaturated?
There is no argument from me that fats and oils are a complicated story, but a little basic knowledge goes a long way in taking control of your health. Here are some “fat” facts.
If you are like most Americans, when you think fat you think “BAD”. Why? In fact, fat is a basic component of nutrition (just like water, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals) and necessary for normal body function. Not only does it supply us with energy, it promotes cell growth, protects all vital organs, and assists anti-inflammatory fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K do their jobs. And very importantly for women, fat regulates hormones.
Fats are found in complex chemicals, including triglycerides, cholesterol and phospholipids, and are essential for the proper functioning of every cell membrane. Approximately 40% of every cell membrane is fat and 60% of your brain tissue is fatty acids. We need to eat fats in their natural state (raw and unrefined versus processed and highly refined) to be healthy!
We derive fat from the food we eat: animals and dairy, seafood, nuts, seeds, beans, vegetable oils, coconuts, and avocado. It is important to eat healthy fats- saturated fats from grass fed animals and coconuts and unsaturated raw oils from plants such as olive, nuts and seeds. Trans fats are unhealthy fats. So are highly refined vegetable oils such soy, safflower, sunflower and cottonseed, because they are highly unstable and become oxidized or rancid when subjected to heat, oxygen and moisture in cooking and processing. Rancid oils contain free radicals, which are extremely reactive chemical compounds. Free radicals have been characterized as ‘marauders’ in the body because they attack cell membranes, red blood cells, protein, lipids and the DNA. The inflammatory damage caused by free radicals accelerates aging and the development of chronic illnesses. Inflammation is the root cause of most chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer.
Fats and oils are basically made up of collections of molecules called triglycerides. A triglyceride is formed from three fatty acids attached to a glycerol molecule. If the triglycerides are liquid at ambient temperature, it is oil. If they solid, it is called a fat.
Fatty acids are formed from the elements carbon (C), hydrogen (H), and oxygen (O). The bonds between the elements determine the length and type of fat. There are 3 types of CHO chains: short, medium and long.
Why does fatty acid chain length matter?
1. Short and medium chain fatty acids (CFA) are easy to digest and therefore quickly absorbed in the body for energy. Long chain fatty acids must be digested with enzymes from the liver and take a longer time to breakdown. Therefore you can increase your energy levels, stimulate your metabolism and lose weight by replacing long CFAs, such as margarine and canola oil, with short and medium CFAs, such as butter and coconut oil. Unprocessed coconut oil can help you lose weight! Hail Merry’s Miracle Tarts and Macaroons contain raw organic coconut oil.
MEDUM CFA: Lauric Acid is found in coconut oil.
MCT do not require bile salts for digestion and therefore, passively absorbed by the intestinal tract into the blood stream where they are used for energy.
2. Short and medium chain saturated fatty acids have anti-microbial effects and protect against the kind of viruses and bacteria that contribute to gastro-intestinal conditions and heart disease. Long chain fatty acids do not have this protective effect. Replacing margarine with organic butter will help stimulate “good” gut bacteria. Julia Child was right- butter is good!
SHORT CFA: Butyric Acid is found in butter. Butyric acid combines with fiber to create the fermentation of good bacteria in the gut. Kombucha Tea has butyric acid in it.
3. An excess of long CFAs vegetable oils (such as canola, soy, safflower), even when not hydrogenated into trans fat, seems to play a role in causing heart disease because they cause an imbalance in the production of prostaglandins, localized tissue hormones that play a role in all of the body's complex chemical processes; and because industrially processed vegetable oils contain free radicals that damage the arteries, thereby initiating plaque deposits. Like sugar and white flour, these vegetable oils, produced by high temperature industrial processing, are new to the human diet. It is the polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids — not saturated fat — that form the major fat component of arterial plaque, yet for many years the American Heart Association and many establishment nutrition writers advocated consumption of polyunsaturated oils for the heart. For more on this subject read Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Chemistry of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol by Mary G Enig, PhD.
LONG CFA: Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fat found in olive oil. Long chain fatty acids are digested through the process of lipolysis, the breakdown of fats and oils into glycerol and fatty acids. LCFAs require bile acids and lipase to break them down in the intestine so that they can be absorbed through the intestinal wall. After they are absorbed they are reformed into triglycerides and eventually travel through the bloodstream until they are stored away in fat cells.
4. Healthy omega fats are long CFAs and necessary for brain and nerve function. Therefore, get your long chain fats from whole foods in their natural state: nuts, seeds, hemp, avocado, cold water fish, grass fed organic animals and dairy. Hail Merry’s Grawnola is chock full of healthy omegas from almonds, walnuts, hemp and flax.