Published: 03/12/2015 - Updated: 04/13/2016
There are three primary macronutrients that are consumed daily in meals. For a brief review of your Biology and Natural Sciences classes, macronutrients are the most commonly found elements in foods consumed, and not only are they the most common, but the body also needs them in the greatest amounts in order to continue living. These are our primary building blocks, and it’s nothing strange that they are found in all foods because they, too, are other living things, just like us. So the phrase “You are what you eat” is more real than you perhaps would have liked to think.
These primary macronutrients are fats or lipids, carbohydrates and proteins, the three of which will be served in one way or another throughout the day. That’s why it’s important to learn how to recognize them, and in this article we are going to focus on the fats, which are found in all cooking oils. Whenever you hear the word “fat”, you probably associate it with obesity and other things generally considered to be bad, due to the culture in which we live. However, a few decades ago, world obesity rates were much lower than today’s, and there was no such thing as “light” or reduced fat foods. But today, even with the increase in “reduced-fat” foods, humanity’s fat rates have reached an all-time high, and the key in weight loss isn’t removing fats from your diets, but in eating a balanced diet and knowing how to differentiate between fats that, in excess, could be damaging, and fats that help health.
Sometimes, when trying to remove fats – good or bad - from food with the intention of not gaining weight, we forget that incorporating these fats helps maintain good health, especially related to the heart. These foods are substituted with other foods, like breads and sugar, which provide quickly used energy. When fats are not included, heart health can become just as deteriorated as if fats were included in excess. The secret to all good health lies in balance.
The fats that the body needs, and which are easy for the body to process, are unsaturated fats. They are found in some of the most popular cooking oils. There are two types of unsaturated fats in oils, one is monounsaturated, which is found in greater proportions in olive oil, avocado, canola and peanuts, while the other fat is polyunsaturated fat. This fat is most common in oils, like corn, sunflower and soy oil. However, none of these are free of the fats that are difficult to process, and in excess they could become dangerous. I’m talking about saturated fats. That’s why it’s important to find oils that best balance unsaturated fatty acids vs. saturated fats, in proportion. The greater the quantity of unsaturated fatty acids and the lesser the amount of saturated fatty acids, per portion, the better the quality of oil, and vice versa. Once exercise you could practice would be to read labels on your oils when you go to the supermarket. Not all vegetable oils are better than animal oils in this regard, because oils like coconut contain a higher portion of saturated fatty acids, and lower unsaturated fats (considering both types) than butter.
This doesn’t mean that coconut oil shouldn’t be included in your diet every once in a while, but this shouldn’t be your main oil for any recipe that comes across your kitchen. Remember that saturated fats should be in lower proportion in your oils and food, but just realize, that they cannot be completely eliminated from your diet. For example, olive oil could have 74% of its fat contents as monounsaturated, 8% are polyunsaturated, and just 13% saturated, which makes it an excellent cooking oil. Corn oil contains 68% polyunsaturated fats, 24% monounsaturated, and the same percentage as olive oil of saturated fats. Both oils could be considered good cooking oils, but they each have different properties. Considering everything, however, the saturated fats in your olive oil equal those of serrano ham, and that of corn oil equals that of a recently fried portion of chicken.
A balanced fat consumption will reflect in lower blood pressure levels, better lipid levels in your body (skin softness is provided by lipids), and a reduced risk of cardiac problems. Read the labels on your food and remember to see a specialist if you suffer from some sort of problem that requires more than an ordinary diet. It’s never a bad idea to see a nutritionist.