Gone are the days of demonizing fats. Fats were mistakenly blamed for increasing heart disease and obesity in the 80s and 90s, but fortunately that misconception has changed.
In examining the characteristics of “a good fat,” we first need to define what a bad fat is and why you should consume these types as little as possible.
BAD FAT: TRANS FAT
Trans fats are a class of unsaturated fats that are formed through the process of adding hydrogen to vegetable oil, making it a solid at room temperature. This process was originally developed to help make food products containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (i.e. trans fats) have a longer shelf life in stores.
Recent research has shown that these fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while simultaneously lowering HDL (good) cholesterol levels, which increases your risk for developing heart disease. The key term to look out for in foods is “partially hydrogenated oil” because this is what a trans fat is.
The issue with trans fats is that they are very uncommon in nature and, when consumed, can produce negative effects on the body. In 2015 the FDA announced a three-year deadline for food companies to remove all trans fats from their processed foods. Yes... they're THAT bad. The main issue with trans fats is that the ‘isomer' (molecule orientation) of the fat structure changes from cis to trans.
While unsaturated fats normally have cis isomers in nature, the industrial process of hydrogenating these fats leads to them having a trans isomer. Meaning, these molecular puzzle pieces don’t fit in quite so nicely with the rest of your metabolic picture. This causes a host of negative effects in the body, including increased inflammation, insulin resistance, and more stomach fat accumulation.
GOOD FAT: SATURATED FAT
There are many things that make a fat a good fat, and the range of fats that fall into the good category is quite varied. Some of the key characteristics — and different types — of good fats that will help you not only achieve your physique and performance goals, but also will help you to maintain wonderful health.
When a fat is stable, that means that it’s much less likely to become toxic or go rancid. Fats can go rancid through a process called oxidation, and this can occur through exposure to air, light, and heat. Thus, fats with greater stability are more resistant to change when exposed to the above elements. Polyunsaturated fats are the most susceptible to go rancid, followed by monounsaturated fats. Saturated fats have the highest resistance of all!
Since saturated fats are some of the most stable fats out there, this makes them exceptionally useful for cooking since they’re resistant to change. Examples of highly saturated fats that are great for cooking and baking are butter, coconut oil, MCT oil, coconut oil powder, MCT oil powder, palm oil, and lard. Use these when cooking to prevent fat destabilization. Beware of using polyunsaturated fats, as these easily oxidize and go rancid.
For years we’ve been taught to avoid saturated fats because of heart disease risk, but large bodies of research have more recently come out stating that the correlation between saturated fat intake and heart disease is virtually nonexistent. Some of that research provides growing evidence in favor of consuming extra medium-chain tryglicerides, which contain medium-chain fatty acids. MCTs are digested in a unique manner — rather than undergoing the standard process of digestion similar to other fats, MCTs travel to the liver, where they are processed. The brain functions very well with the presence of MCTs because they dramatically up-regulate the body’s production of ketones, which are fuel substrates that our brains utilize for improved cognitive functioning.
MCTs aid in providing your body with sustained energy, allowing you to perform at a high level for extended hours. Coconut oil powder and MCT oil powder are great additions to your early morning coffee, giving you a great boost well into the middle of the day. Be sure to incorporate these powders gradually into your diet though, to give your digestive system time to adjust.
Perhaps the best thing about eating saturated fat is the effect that is has on your testosterone levels. Saturated fat is one of the essential constituents that is necessary to be present in order for your body to produce testosterone. For anyone looking to put on slabs of muscle, high testosterone levels are a must. So go ahead... eat some saturated good fat!