Eating lots of fat will make you unhealthy, but so will eating lots of anything else. Studies show that cutting fat intake is not effective when attempting to help people lose weight if those calories are replaced by something else, which they tend to be.
Fats are molecules that organisms use to store energy. They are very good at storing energy so they can be converted into lots of energy. In a seed, the fat grows into a plant, and in your brain, the neuron fires up your thinking! Essentially fat is good at the appropriate levels.
Why they tell you not to eat fats
The thing with fats is that they are energy dense. It means a gram of fat has more than twice the energy of a gram of protein or gram of carbohydrates.
So when you hear WHO stating that obesity is increasing because people are eating energy-dense foods, you’ll get their point!
Small does of chemistry here, bare with us. Everything we eat is made of chemicals that are primarily composed of long chains of carbon atoms, one carbon bonded to another carbon atom. These bonds between two carbons can be broken by your body and converted into usable energy. Fats have very many carbon bonds, more than protein and carbohydrates.
But it turns out that fats are not inherently bad for you. Indeed they are an absolutely necessary part of the diet, but there are definitely some fats that promote health more than others, and some that are downright dangerous. The trick is knowing the difference between the two, and enjoying the good fats, in the right portion.
Defining factor of good and bad fats
Saturated fats are solid when at room temperature (like the solid fat for cooking food), and are mostly sourced from animals, and also coconuts – think of how real coconut oil is white and solid in appearance. These fats are saturated with hydrogen. Every carbon of the saturated fat is bonded to two hydrogen atoms, apart from the last one which is bonded to three hydrogen atoms.
Unsaturated fats are not saturated, meaning that they have less hydrogen. Unsaturated fats have at least one double bond between two carbon atoms in the chain, each double bond means two fewer hydrogen atoms.
Unsaturated fats are in liquid form when in room temperature because do not have as many hydrogen molecules. They are oils that are derived from plants and fish. They are good fats.
Poly-unsaturated fats; also a type of unsaturated fats. There are essential classes of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are good for you. The most common ones are the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats.
Omega-3 is mostly derived from fish oil. So when you consume fish you top up on Omega 3. another very rich source of Omega-3 is Flaxseed. You can buy flaxseed from Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria, basically most African countries.
A nice way of consuming flaxseed is buying the meal (grounded flaxseed), and adding it to your cereals, smoothies, or using it to thicken your vegetable stews.
Omega-3 helps pregnant women with the baby’s development, is good for the brain, and also helps with inflammation. Don’t use supplements unless the doctor asks you to. If you normally consume fish and foods rich in Omega 3 like flaxseed, spinach, brussels sprouts, eggs, pumpkin, butternut, tilapia, sardines (fresh ones from the Indian Ocean) and cod, you should be just fine!
Omega-6. Linoleic acid is the most popular and consumed type of Omega-6. Although it’s good for us, our bodies do not make it, and so we consume it mostly in nuts, seeds and plant-based oils. Omega-6 fatty acids are very important to the brain function, bone health, healthy heart and fighting inflammation. When a part of your body turns red, swollen, that hot painful feeling, it’s inflamed. Basically, it’s fighting against the injury.
Trans-fats. The worst type of fat is trans-unsaturated fats. These fats occur in very small amounts in nature (very small!), however they are produced industrially. They are manufactured by adding more hydrogen molecules or by partially hydrogenating some unsaturated fat like soybean oil. Basically, they add (more) hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils like soybean oil to make trans-fats.
Trans fats and hydrogenated fats refer to the same thing. Our biochemical systems are not designed to break them down and they do not interact well with cholesterol. The U.S Food And Drug Administration has declared them unsafe for consumption. I wonder when our countries in Africa will start paying attention to this!
Limit your intake of trans-fats
Our advice to you is to consume fats in the right measure. Of course the unsaturated fats are better for you. However, consuming too much of any fats can lead to health complications associated with an increase of cholesterol level in the blood. Excess consumption of poly-unsaturated may lead to complications. Fats should generally be consumed in moderation.
If saturated and trans fats are consumed in huge amounts they can lead to complications like clogged arteries, which can lead to stroke.
We understand that nyama choma tastes good and that all these fast-foods (that are fried in trans-fats) are especially tasty when you are starving, hangovered, or lazy, but you need to start choosing better food options.
There are “fast-food” joints that roast chicken in garlic, lemon, and good spices, go for these options! Every other snack in the supermarket has trans-fats, so limit the number of snacks you eat and make a habit of having meals at scheduled times. We want you to start paying attention to what you eat! Food is life.
Basically good fats are essential for good health. Fats have energy in them and are absolutely necessary for life. They taste good and are good for you but unsaturated fats are better for you, and trans-fats, if eaten in large amounts, might very well kill you.