Fats and oils usually have a bad reputation. Not only are they suspected of making you fat - they are also believed to clog arteries and lead to cardiovascular disease. However, fats aren't entirely bad. On the contrary: some fats are extremely healthy - especially for your brain. In this article you will learn everything about healthy fats and why they should be on the menu more often.
Healthy Fats vs. Bad Fats: What's the Difference?
In the past, fats and oils were demonized without exception. Today we know how to distinguish them better. Not all fat is the same. Rather, it depends on what fats you eat. Monounsaturated fats, such as those found in olives, can even have a health-promoting effect on the organism. In contrast, saturated fats, which are primarily found in foods of animal origin, are considered "unhealthy" because they can increase the risk of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
What are fats?
In addition to proteins and carbohydrates, fats (lipids) belong to the basic building blocks (macronutrients) of our body. First and foremost, fat is an important carrier of taste. It not only contains valuable aromas and flavors - with 9,4 kcal it also has twice as many calories as proteins and carbohydrates, which is why you should enjoy it in moderation.
Even though many prefer to avoid the macronutrient fat, it is extremely important for the body. Fats are mainly needed to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, E, K and D. In contrast to proteins and carbohydrates, fats have the highest calorific value because a small portion of fat already contains a large number of calories.
Fats mainly consist of triglycerides - that is, three fatty acids are attached to one glycerol. Every fatty acid consists of both oxygen and hydrogen, which are connected to a carbon atom. Depending on how the connection is built, one speaks of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.
What fats are there?
Depending on the structure, fat can
The unsaturated fatty acids are in turn divided into monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids.
What are saturated fat?
Saturated fatty acids are mainly found in animal foods, especially sausage, meat, butter and dairy products. Furthermore, vegetable oils and hydrogenated fats consist of saturated fatty acids.
What are unsaturated fatty acids?
These fatty acids are generally considered "healthy". They are divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Monounsaturated fatty acids are mainly found in rapeseed and olive oil, olives and avocados. We can create them ourselves - so they are not essential. The healthy fatty acids are indispensable for our body because they can lower the "harmful" LDL cholesterol (low density lipoprotein) and raise the "good" HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is also known as high density lipoprotein. In contrast to LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol can protect the blood vessels from arteriosclerosis.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential for the organism - that means that you have to get them through your diet. A distinction is made between polyunsaturated fatty acids
- Omega fatty acids 3
- Omega-6 fatty acids.
All Omega fatty acids 3 in turn include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are mainly found in
- Vegetable oils (walnut, linseed and safflower oil)
- Fish (mackerel, salmon, herring, tuna)
are included. The most important omega-6 fatty acid is linoleic acid, which is mainly found in vegetable oils (sunflower seed and olive oil) and in foods (flaxseed).
What are trans fatty acids?
Trans fatty acids, also called trans fats, are generally considered unhealthy. Trans fats are an industrial end product when fats and oils are chemically hardened. Trans fats include fried foods, potato chips, margarine, and puff pastry.
How does fat work in the body?
Healthy fats are an important source of energy. If healthy fats are consumed in moderation, they are transported via the small intestine and the lymphatic system and stored in the connective tissue. Healthy fats protect the body from the cold, and they also help protect internal organs. Unfortunately, due to the oversupply of food, we often take in far too much fat, which is stored as a fat store for "bad times".
What is the need for healthy fats?
Fat alone does not make you fat. Rather, it is the total calorie expenditure that determines weight. If you consume more calories than your body can use, the fat is stored as depot fat. Therefore, the fat intake should primarily consist of healthy fat that can benefit your health.
According to the DGE, healthy fats should make up 30 percent of energy, depending on age, gender and physical activity. In the case of physically active people, the need can be as high as 40 percent. This corresponds to a daily fat intake of 65 to 90 grams.
Why are healthy fats good for the brain?
The daily food intake should not only consist of proteins and carbohydrates, but also of healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are not only good for your nerves - they are also an important part of the cell membrane, because they ensure that it remains permeable.
Since the brain is mostly made up of fat, the unsaturated fatty acids are essential for your body. Healthy fats can not only improve cognitive performance - they can also be anti-inflammatory. Avocados, Fish, Nuts, and Vegetables MCT oil are known to be among the best foods rich in healthy fats.
What are the sources of healthy fats?
Even if avocados are not native to this country, they should be on your menu more often. The avocado has a lot of healthy fats that provide the body, especially your brain, with energy. They are rich in vitamins A and E, they also contain vitamins B1 and B6, which can calm the nervous system and improve the ability to concentrate. Another important ingredient in avocado is lecithin. Lecithin is a vital substance for your nerves, which is mainly found in the cell membrane of your brain.
2. coconut oil
Indeed, coconut oil appears to be a healthy fat and a perfect source of energy for your brain. Not only can you use it for cooking and baking - coconut oil can also be a real addition to your smoothies or morning muesli. Coconut oil has the great advantage that it is extremely heat-resistant, which is why you can also use the fat for frying.
Coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which have several benefits. While other fats, which consist primarily of long-chain triglycerides, are digested with the help of enzymes and bile salts, medium-chain triglycerides can bypass this detour. The fat goes directly to the liver via the small intestine. A large part is used to cover energy requirements - the rest is converted into so-called ketones in the liver. Ketones are energy suppliers made of fat that are immediately available to your brain in the event of an impending energy shortage.
3. MCT oil
MCT oil is simply unbeatable as a healthy fat and fast energy supplier. This oil is an extract made from medium-chain triglycerides extracted from coconut, palm or rapeseed oil. There are a total of four MCT varieties, including the
- Caproic acid (C6)
- Caprylic acid (C8)
- Capric acid (C10)
- Lauric acid (C12)
belong. MCT oils usually consist of a mixture of the above MCTs. The highest quality form, however, is a pure extract from C8 caprylic acid. Pure C8 is considered the best MCT oil because it is most efficiently metabolized and makes the most ketones.
4. Olive oil
Similar to avocados, olive oil contains many healthy fats, Antioxidants and vitamin E, which benefit your metabolism.
Nuts are called "nerve food" for a reason. Walnuts in particular, which can provide a good boost of energy. This is mainly due to the high content of vitamin B6, which can improve concentration and prevent fatigue. The vitamin E it contains can protect the brain from calcification. Walnuts are not only made up of omega-3 fatty acids - they also contain plenty of lecithin, which is converted into acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is involved in the communication between your nerve cells in the brain and your muscles.
High-fat fish such as sardines, tuna, mackerel or salmon are also characterized by a high content of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can have a positive effect on the area of the brain (hippocampus) that is responsible for memory.
Why healthy fatty acids can increase performance
In contrast to a high-carbohydrate diet, healthy fatty acids have proven to be a better choice as a source of energy and natural boosters of mental performance. A fat-based diet is also known as a ketogenic diet. With this diet, the carbohydrates disappear almost entirely from the diet, while fats make up 70 to 80 percent of the diet.
As soon as carbohydrates are no longer available as energy suppliers, the body gets its energy from fatty acids (ketones), which can be digested much faster than carbohydrates. The fatty acids are water-soluble, which is why they can easily cross the blood-brain barrier. As soon as the body needs more energy, it can fall back on its own fat reserves and convert them into ketones.
Another advantage is that your blood sugar level remains constant when you restrict your intake of carbohydrates. A drop in blood sugar levels can have a negative effect on your alertness and thinking skills.
By the way: On average, ketosis is six times faster than with a high-carbohydrate diet, which is why it is not only suitable for increasing mental performance, but also for losing weight.
Fats can be healthy - if you choose the right ones. In addition to high-fat fish, nuts, olive oil and avocados, coconut oil and MCT oil are among the healthy sources of fat. Not only can they stimulate fat burning - they are also an important source of energy because they are metabolized much faster than carbohydrates.