Along with carbohydrates and protein, fats are part of the basic structure of human nutrition. They provide us with energy and are contained in many foods. However, people often warn about fats. Nevertheless, there are very healthy and sometimes essential fats for humans. This article takes a closer look at these healthy fats. The structure, the occurrence and the advantages are discussed.
the essentials in brief
- Healthy fats are also known as unsaturated fats. Together with saturated fatty acids, they form fats.
- Fats are a basic nutrient and should not be missing from any diet.
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids cannot be produced by the body. They are essential for humans and must be ingested through diet.
Glossary entry: The term healthy fats explained in detail
In the following section we have listed the most important details about healthy fats for you. We also go over the pros and cons and foods that contain healthy fats. This gives you an all-encompassing overview of healthy fats.
What are healthy fats?
To understand what healthy fats are, it is important to understand fats themselves. Fats are part of the basic nutrients and are indispensable for human health. Fat only becomes unhealthy for humans when too much is consumed. In addition, it is also important which fats are eaten.
A distinction is made between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. A ratio of 1:2 is ideal. In the case of the consumed unsaturated fatty acids, at least one third should consist of monounsaturated fatty acids, in the best case oleic acid. The polyunsaturated fatty acids, on the other hand, should consist of as many omega-3 fatty acids as possible. (1)
Olive oil is one of the healthy fats. Nonetheless, it should be consumed in moderation. [Image Source: Couleur / Pixabay)
Fatty acids consist of up to 26 carbon atoms that are chemically linked by single or double bonds. If one or more of these double bonds are present, one speaks of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids are particularly important polyunsaturated fatty acids. These are among the essential nutrients. This means that the body needs them to live, but cannot produce them itself and must therefore absorb them through food. (2)
Strictly speaking, healthy fats are unsaturated fatty acids.
How are healthy fats different from other fats?
On the one hand, saturated and unsaturated fatty acids differ in the number of double bonds in the fatty acid chain. The number of bonds also determines the temperature at which the aggregate state of the fat changes. For example, saturated fats such as beef tallow or coconut oil are solid at room temperature.
Fats with a high proportion of unsaturated fatty acids, such as vegetable oils, are solid at room temperature. So you can see differences between the different fats.
What foods contain healthy fats?
There are some foods that naturally contain a high proportion of unsaturated fatty acids. In order to summarize these foods and give you a better overview, we have summarized the information in a table.
|Meat||Unsaturated fatty acids|
|Grain||Unsaturated fatty acids|
|potatoes||Unsaturated fatty acids|
|Chia seeds||Omega 6|
|nuts||Unsaturated fatty acids|
|avocados||Unsaturated fatty acids|
|butter||Saturated Fatty Acids|
What are the benefits of healthy fats?
Unsaturated fatty acids offer almost exclusively advantages. They are good for the body and promote health. Humans are even dependent on omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are essential for survival, but cannot be produced by the body.
One benefit of healthy fats is that they can aid in weight loss. (3) In addition, the unsaturated fatty acids omega 3 and omega 6 are essential for humans. He cannot survive without these and since he cannot produce them, they must be obtained from food. (4) Another health benefit is the lowering of cholesterol levels. In this way, diseases such as diabetes can be prevented. (5)
In summary, unsaturated fats offer the following advantages:
Do Healthy Fats Help You Lose Weight?
While healthy fats don't necessarily help you lose weight, they can still aid in the process.
Unsaturated fatty acids stimulate lipid metabolism in the liver. This taps into fat reserves in the body. Which are then burned to help with weight loss. For this reason, many athletes drink coffee with MCT oil before training. (6)
However, the most effective way to lose weight is in a calorie deficit. In this way, the body uses more calories per day than it is ingested. Consequently, fat reserves in the body are tapped to gain energy. In this way, you can lose weight sustainably and in the long term. (7)
In summary, not all fats are bad. On the contrary, the body is even dependent on some fats. Here the dose makes the poison. It is perfectly okay to consume fats. You should just be careful not to consume too much and eat saturated fats and essential fats as much as possible. This promotes your health and is essential for life.
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- Saini R, Keum Y, Omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids: Dietary sources, metabolism, and significance - A review Life Science . 2018 Jun 15;203:255-267.
- Beyen A, Katan M, Why do polyunsaturated fatty acids lower serum cholesterol? Am J Clin Nutr . 1985 Sep;42(3):560-3.
- Mumme K, Stonehouse W, Effects of medium-chain triglycerides on weight loss and body composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials J Acad Nutr Diet
- Strasser B, Spreitzer A, Haber P, Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss Ann Nutr Metab . 2007;51(5):428-32.