Lipids are one of the three major macronutrients, beside carbohydrates and proteins. They contain 9 calories per gram and should represent 30-35% from our daily intake.
Depending on their origin, we can talk about animal fats (meat, fish, butter, dairy) and vegetal fats (margarine, seeds, oils).
Lipids can be divided in two major categories: saturated and unsaturated fats.
1. Saturated fats…
- are usually animal fats, found in butter, cream, cheese, lard, pork, mutton, beef, bacon, sausage, animal organs, chicken skin, eggs, tallow;
- eaten in excess are considered to be bad because they increase cholesterol levels and can cause, in time, serious cardiovascular problems;
- they remain solid at room temperature.
2. Unsaturated fats…
- we can find them in fish and in different kind of oils, including oilseeds;
- are considered to be good because they decrease cholesterol levels, increase the levels of “good” cholesterol (known as HDL-cholesterol), “fight” against atherosclerosis and protect against heart diseases;
- they remain liquid at room temperature.
The unsaturated fats can be:
Monounsaturated – we can find them in avocado, olive oil, sunflower oil, rape oil, peanuts oil, corn oil, palm leaves oil, soy oil, Brazil nut oil, nuts oil, grape seeds oil, almonds, pistachio, nuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, goose or duck fat, goose pate.
Polyunsaturated or essential fatty acids, essential because our body is not able to synthesize them, so we have to take them from our food.
Omega-3 and omega-6 are polyunsaturated fats.
Omega-3 is largely available in fat fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, anchovies, sardines, shellfish, cod liver oil), flax seeds oil, sunflower oil, rape oil, olive oil, red and black currant. A very interesting thing is that fish fat never contributes at weight gaining, so they are important ingredients of a dietary plan, being recommended to eat fish as often as possible.
Omega-6 can be found in soy oil, rape oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, wheat germ, oatmeal flour, black currant oil, in small quantities in eggs, liver, goose or duck fat.
Trans-polyunsaturated fats are vegetal polyunsaturated fats whose chemical structure was modified through industrial treatments or cooking. They are unhealthy and should be avoided. They are found in pastries, cookies, crackers, bread, margarine, all kind of industrial prepared foods.
Lipids are important; they give us energy, participate in cells metabolism, nervous system, intestinal system, blood coagulation and immunity. So, depends on us to choose between “good” healthy lipids or “bad” unhealthy lipids. The combination between saturated fats or “trans” fats and carbohydrates has important consequences not just on our weight (they are true “caloric bombs”) but on our cardiovascular system as well.