Saturated and Unsaturated Fatty Acids : Friend or Foe?

Do you know that from the moment we are born, we begin to latch (pun intended) onto Saturated fat? Breast milk is a high source of saturated fat, formed naturally and is unprocessed. Now… if saturated fat is so bad, then why does the world go ga-ga over feeding only breast milk to a new born for as long as possible?

Olive! Another high source of saturated fat, key part of traditional diet of Middle Easterners, naturally occurring and unprocessed.

Coconut, high source of saturated fat, naturally occurring and unprocessed, loved by most of the Asians since forever. The list is not long but it is intriguing. Nuts, Avocado and Ghee are few more examples.

On a very high level- there are two kinds of cholesterol- LDL (bad) and HDL (good). Saturated fat from the natural food sources actually increases both LDL and HDL. However, within LDL, there are two types as well- Type A and Type B. With the consumption of saturated fat from natural food sources, studies reveal that only type A LDL increases which doesn’t impact the heart. It is type B of LDL that impacts the heart, and that’s sourced primarily from refined carbohydrates (processed/comfort foods). Hence, it is advised to eat whole grains where the ratio of fibre to carbs is higher.

Our body needs saturated fat from natural sources. They help to fix hormones that can otherwise cause the body to go haywire impacting weight, mood, acne, bloating, PCOS, thyroid, sleep and the list goes on. Our brain, that is just 2% of our body mass but consumes 25% energy of the body, needs fat to perform efficiently for life. Saturated fat also stays inside the body cells to build a defence system and attack viruses and bacterias.

If you look around to find a food which has both high level of carbohydrates and saturated fat existing together, you might not be able to. Do you know that nature has not designed any food where saturated fat and carbs are combined? Generally speaking, fruits and veggies are mostly carbs or fibre. If you pick up any grain, then they are mostly protein or carbs. Can you think of any example with both saturated fat and carbs?

The most commonly loved and preferred food, nowadays, are fries, burger, chips, doughnuts etc. They are excellent examples of processed foods where both saturated fat and carbs are combined. They don’t occur naturally around us like a fruit or vegetable or whole grains. These are processed foods and hence can be harmful for the body. Interestingly, a study revealed that this kind of a processed food combination confuses and falsely tricks the brain into valuing this meal higher in nutrition (fat and carbs), releasing higher amount of dopamine (a feeling of reward) and ultimately resulting in more craving for the same.

So you can safely go back to those nuts, avocado, coconut and other naturally occurring saturated fats which haven’t been processed and combined with carbs. And keep a distance from saturated fats which are manufactured and combined with carbs in the form of fast-foods.

This blog post first appeared at Iyurved, a food portal where tradition meets science to help you with daily nutrition.

Vandita Tewari Kapoor

Baking Addict, Impulsive Cook, Ingredient fanatic, Food photographer

As a wife and mum to constantly-hungry three boys, I had no option but to endlessly test and prepare ‘comfort-food’ substitutes with nutritious ingredients and unbeatable taste. ‘IYURVED’ is my attempt to provide my kids and others with food choices that can change the way one eats and not what one eats. Taste should never be compromised. Food is important in our household. Our emotions are driven by it. However, making subtle changes in the ingredients we use will go a long way in not only keeping us healthy but also very young.

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