Demystifying fats and oils, part one

Demystifying fats and oils, part one

Demystifying fats and oils, part one

The cholesterol scare has many of us thinking that animal fats are bad for us, that saturated fats are bad for us, that fat in general is bad for us. Many weight-conscious people fear fat for its high calorie count. However, the most serious health problem caused by fats and oils is from neither cholesterol nor calories—it is from rancidity and unnatural processing…

The body does need fats to insulate us against the cold and to cushion our organs and hold them in place. We need fat in order to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K prevalent in greens and other vegetables. Can you see how a fat-free salad dressing does not do you any nutritional favors?

Fat plays an important role in the absorption of calcium and therefore in the maintenance of bone health. It is no coincidence that milk comes with a fair amount of fat in it, as do cold-water fish—both good sources of calcium. So fat-free or low-fat dairy products do not make much sense—we need fat for effective absorption of the calcium contained in these foods.

Fat also nourishes our skin, hair, and nails and is important for proper brain functioning, especially in the developing brains of babies and children.

Too much fat in our food can clog up our lymph system and compromise our immune system. The right amount of fat, however, slows down the digestion process just enough to allow effective absorption of nutrients. By slowing the speed at which carbohydrates are broken down into sugars, fat helps to stabilize our blood sugar level. This actually fosters weight loss.

Another way that fats can help rather than hinder weight loss is through their role in the endocrine system. Our brain reacts to fat intake by producing a chemical called cholecystokinin (CCK). CCK stimulates the liver to produce bile, which helps in the digestion of fat. CCK also gives us the message that we have had enough food—in essence, curbing our appetite. A bit of fat in the diet hastens a feeling of satiety and satisfaction with what we have eaten, actually permitting us to save calories by eating no more than we need.


  1. Aigi Vahing on February 13, 2011 at 11:13 AM said:
    Highly helpful. I usually go for Low-Fat Yogurt but after reading this I might switch back to Whole Milk which is true - tastier and more satisfying. Thank you for sharing this.
  2. Margaret T on February 18, 2011 at 6:43 PM said:
    Marika, thanks for the article. I'm having a problem distinguishing between Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids and the effects of too many or too few of these essential fatty acids. There was an article in the last U.S. News & World Report that confused me. It sounds as if you're really accomplishing a lot. Haven't seen you in town lately.
  3. Marika Blossfeldt on April 15, 2011 at 12:15 AM said:
    Aigi, I hope you do - whole milk yogurt is so much better in so many respects - good for the taste buds and good for your body! Margaret, I know fats and oils can be confusing - we have heard for too long that polyunsaturated fatty acids are the way to go. But too much Omega 6 can lead to inflammation and blood clotting. Omega 3 on the other hand is anti-inflammatory and blood thinning. I recommend to reduce oils that are predominantly polyunsaturated and prefer monounsaturated oils. Small amounts of Omega 3 can be found in butter, cold water fish, flax seeds (but you need to chew them well), meat, eggs, nuts, legumes and green vegetables.
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