What we commonly call “fats” and doctors instead call lipids are also among the macronutrients, which, in the right proportions, should never be missing in a balanced diet. The right fats help to maintain good health. Let’s see what they are, where they are and how much we should consume them with Dr. Sabrina Oggionni, a dietician from Humanitas.
The two faces of lipids
Very often we consume high amounts of fat without looking at its nutritional value, without thinking that some fats would do our body good.
Saturated and hydrogenated fats should be avoided as much as possible: several studies have shown that their reckless use increases the risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular problems.
Instead, they should be replaced with mono- and polyunsaturated fats that are found primarily in extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, but also in fruits such as avocados, and in other vegetable foods such as almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios. They help, although modestly, to increase levels of so-called good cholesterol. They are great sources of omega 3, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines and tuna, oily fruits such as nuts and seeds such as flax, but also partly legumes such as dried beans. Omega 6 is found in essential oils (corn, soybeans, rape, cotton seeds, safflower, sunflower), in oily fruits such as nuts, peanuts, pistachios, and in foods such as cereals, dried legumes and egg yolk. These fats are important components of the body (they make up cell membranes), and are essential for the development and growth of the child, as well as decreasing the level of triglycerides in the blood.
Maintaining a good ratio of w-3 and w-6 (1-6) is essential to limit inflammation (harmful to the body and an outbreak of diseases such as heart disease). Generally, in the Mediterranean diet, foods rich in w-6 are eaten more frequently, while intakes of w-3 are scarce. To introduce an optimal dose for the body, we recommend the consumption of at least 1-2 servings of fish per week and about 10g of walnuts or other oily fruit per day (e.g. 2-3 walnuts).
The fat found in packaged and processed foods can be based on hydrogenated vegetable fats that can contain fats in “trans” form, which has been shown to be able to increase total and bad cholesterol (LDL), and reduce good cholesterol (HDL).
How to understand whether you consume enough “good” fats
Do the joints stiffen and swell? Does your skin become dry and scaly and your nails become soft, cracked or brittle? These symptoms may be caused by a diet lacking proper lipid intake. However, it remains essential to consult a doctor to understand if the problem really comes from the diet. In general, it is better to avoid saturated fats, especially of animal origin, such as cream, butter, lard, high-fat cold cuts and frequent consumption of cheese, as well as fats or foods containing “hydrogenated vegetable fats” (margarines).
On the other hand, vegetable fats such as olive oil (preferably extra virgin), sunflower oil, and peanuts combined with the consumption of dried fruit and fish are to be preferred.