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Part 2 of our fat facts! How to shred that extra weight

Monounsaturated fats
This type of fat is missing some of its hydrogen molecules and has a single bend in its chemical chain. This means that, unlike saturated fat which is solid, straight and inert, monounsaturated fats are more reactive and liquid at room temperature. The body can use monounsaturated fats for energy but also for important chemical reactions in the body. They are good for our hearts, our hair and skin and our overall health.

This reactivity is good because we can use monounsaturated fats for a host of healthy processes in our bodies but this reactivity also means monounsaturated fats can “go bad” and cause us more harm than good if they are over-heated, exposed to too much light or oxygen or processed too aggressively. For example, the extraction method used when producing olive oil (the most common monounsaturated oil) can greatly affect its healthful properties. Extra virgin cold pressed olive oil is the Rolls Royce of oils. It comes from the first pressing of the olives (hence “extra virgin”) with out the application of heat (hence “cold pressed”) or solvents. This makes it very healthy. Anything other than extra virgin cold pressed olive oil will have been heated to high temperatures, had solvents used to increase oil yield and come from a second or third pressing of the olives. All these factors mean our once healthy olive oil is now no longer good for us and may, in fact, be very bad for.

To preserve the healthy characteristics of monounsaturated oils (e.g. olive oil) it is important not to over heat them (stir frying is okay, long cooking times/high temperatures however will damage the oil), stick to extra virgin cold pressed oils where possible and make sure oils are stored in an airtight dark glass container away from direct sunlight.

Olive oil is really best kept as a condiment and consumed raw but because it is only mildly reactive, it’s okay to cook with it but only for short periods/lower temperatures. Saturated fats are better suited for longer cooking times and higher temperatures as heat doesn’t affect them negatively. About 30% of our daily fat intake should be made up from monounsaturated fats.

In the last in this series, well take a look at polyunsaturated fats and trans fats.

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