Learn How To Balance The Fatty Acids In Your Diet!

Categories: NUTRITIONPublished On: February 15th, 2024

Protect Your Health, Maximize Your Achievements And Improve Your Body Image.

Spanish citizens of all ages consume more fat in their diets than what is recommended by international agencies, a new ANIBES (Anthropometry, Intake and Energy Balance in Spain) report shows. According to this report, commissioned by the Spanish Foundation for Nutrition, the Spanish population exceed their recommended daily intake of fatty acids.

The intake of fat is generally linked to overweight and inflammation, nonetheless, the intake of fatty acids in recommended doses is essential to our health, as fats are a source of energy and fat-soluble vitamins, and fatty acids have a key role in the composition and functionality of the cell membranes, as well as participating in the formation of hormones and being adamant in regulating the concentration of blood fats.All of the above are basic concepts that many times remain neglected in favour of the more popular “battle against body fat” practised on a daily basis by sports performers, and more so by Fitness and Bodybuilding performers. The pressure of what the mirror shows or how you will look on stage, sometimes outweigh our knowledge about certain health issues, making specifically our fat intake not only insufficient, but also uncompensated. On the other hand, the sedentary population makes the opposite mistake: they exceed their fat intake by far, which will also lead to a dangerous situation of lack of compensation between the different kinds of fat.
This unbalance is bad for our health and increases the risk of inflammation. It also favours cardiovascular disease and generates a physical context that can lead to chronic inflammation within the cells, increasing the risk of sudden death, cerebrovascular accident, depression, neurodegenerative disease and even cancer.

Which Are Our Fat Sources?

We find a vast array of fat sources in the Mediterranean diet. Putting geographical differences aside, the main fat sources are vegetable oils (olive and sunflower, mainly) and animal fats, although we also find significant amounts of fat in nuts, cereal and pulses.

There are fatty acids in all of the aforementioned foods, but the different kinds of fat are as diverse as are their effects on our health. Therefore, it is adamant to know what kind of fats we are consuming. A new test developed by Synlab Laboratories is of particular interest to fitness enthusiasts and competing athletes.

This innovative method is based on a blood test and evaluates all four fat families – saturated, trans-unsaturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Maintaining the balance between these four types is essential to our health. So says Dr. Irene Santacruz: “for the past two decades, the changes in Western society’s lifestyle and eating habits has caused an unbalance in the intake of fatty acids, presenting an excess in saturated fats, trans fats and omega 6, and a lack in omega 3. Fortunately, bringing harmony to this unbalance is an easy thing to do, and it will help us regain optimal health.”

Getting To Know Your Fatty Acids Better

Omega-3: Taking care of our heart.

A polyunsaturated fatty acid, omega-3 is required to strengthen our neurones, protecting our heart from cerebrovascular accident. Our body doesn’t produce omega-3 by itself, so it must be provided through our food intake. Fat fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines are rich in omega-3, but also veggie foods like flaxseed and chia seed, nuts, spinach and soya.

Omega-6: Taking care of our cells.

Omega-6 plays an important role in regulating our metabolism, promoting immunologic response (amongst other things, it addresses inflammatory issues) and regulating blood coagulation. Foods rich in omega-6 are very common to find: avocado, all types of pulses, seeds, nuts and dried fruits, etc. This is why a high intake of omega-6 combined with a low intake of omega-3 can cause an unbalance that may ultimately lead to disease.

Omega-9: Shielding us from cholesterol.

Omega-9 is a monounsaturated fatty acid that our body is capable of synthesizing, unlike omega-3 and omega-6.
It helps reducing the bad cholesterol (LDL) and the triglyceride levels in blood, increasing the good cholesterol levels (HDL). It also helps prevent the blocking of the arteries and reduces arterial hypertension and protects the membranes of the red blood cells.
Our main omega-9 sources are olive oil, olives and avocado, in addition to some kinds of nuts, such as walnuts and hazelnuts. Animal fat also contains omega-9, although it’s convenient to cut down on its intake, as animal fat is also rich in saturated fat.

Now that we have been introduced to our unsaturated fatty acids, we should remember to keep the balance between the three, so as to ensure a good functioning of our body. Still, in modern society we tend to over-consume omega-6 fats, mainly due to the large amounts of vegetable oil contained in most snacks and other regular consumer products, leaving the omega-3 levels at a low.

Saturated fat: bad reputation, but still necessary.

Saturated fatty acids might not provide any particular benefits; still, they are a necessary nutrient for the proper functioning of our body. They provide us with the energy that enables us to work and train properly and help maintain our hair and skin healthy, as well as enabling the uptake of fat-soluble vitamins and maintaining our body temperature.
Most foods containing saturated fats are of animal origin, such as milk and dairy products, red meat and poultry, and yolks. However, their origin can also be from plants, as is the case of chocolate, margarine and coconut oil. It is recommended to consume a maximum of 10% of our daily calorie intake in the form of saturated fat. An excessive consumption of saturated fat is directly linked to obesity.

Trans fatty acids: know your enemy.

Trans-unsaturated or trans fats are even more unhealthy than saturated fats, due to their double negative effect, in that they increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduce HDL (good) cholesterol. These fats are found mainly in the industrial processing of some foods, a process known as hydrogenation, whereby the configuration of some unsaturated fats changes and they become trans fats.

Several studies confirm that trans fatty acids from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils increase the risk of coronary disease and sudden death, as well as increasing the risk for metabolic syndrome or diabetes. Therefore, it’s important to steer away from trans fat, although beware! This may prove a challenging task: trans fats are to be found in virtually every package of cookies, biscuits, ready-made pastry, precooked meals, snacks, salted and fried nuts, sweet and salty treat available on the market, as well as in industrial ice-cream, fudge and milkshakes.

Currently, not all of these harmful trans fats are being specified on the nutritional chart of each product, so we might as well be eating bad, unhealthy fat without knowing it.