Breaking Down Fat Terminology
There is a lot of misinformation circulating about fats (also called lipids) so here’s a quick overview on fat terminology you should know. If your brain could vote, it would pick fats as the most important nutrient.
On the fat molecules are empty areas; let’s call them parking spaces. When there is plenty of room to park, these fats are called unsaturated. If lots of spaces are unfilled, the fat is called a highly unsaturated fatty acid (HUFA).
Along come cars (hydrogen molecules) that fill some or all of the parking spaces. The more parking spots that are filled, the more saturated the parking lot fat molecule becomes. Because these spots are filled, the molecule becomes stiff. These saturated fats are healthy building blocks for tissues that require some stiffness such as the myelin of the brain. As long as these are eaten in the right proportions the tissue is healthy.
Along comes an unscrupulous builder who decides to change the normal configuration of the parking spaces from natural to unnatural (resulting in trans fats, meaning the molecule is chemically crossed up), and the parking spaces are zapped with hydrogen cars (hydrogenated fats). This chemical mischief makes the fat molecule so stiff and sticky that other cars (e.g., oxygen) won’t park there. So the parking lot stays the same (hydrogenated fat sits on the shelf and doesn’t spoil for years).
Tissues love HUFAs because they act like multipurpose building material, changing shape to become whatever growing and healing tissue needs.
Try adding more fish to your diet. They are full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. With this lesson in fat terminology we hope you can make the right choices about which fats to include in your diet.