Tag Archives: fats

Fats within our Foods

Fat is somewhat misunderstood when it comes to nutrition. A person needs fat in order for their body to function properly. It is an energy source, it helps regulate blood pressure, heart rate, blood vessel constriction and blood clotting. It also is the way that various vitamins are delivered into our blood stream.

There are two ways one needs to look at fat. First, in a high level overview of fat as a whole, then a lower level look at the various types of fat. I believe this is important, because fat, at its base level, is a means in which energy is delivered to our bodies.

The issue surrounding fats is not whether it’s good or bad, but rather how much is too much. Much like everything else in life, fat is best taken in moderation. Being rather high in calories, it’s easy to overindulge. 5 grams of fat contains 45 calories. As a point of comparison, 5 grams of either proteins and carbohydrates contains only 20 calories. Fat is a very efficient means in delivering calories. Foods high in fat are probably not the best items to eat when you wish to feel “full”.

At the lower level, fats molecules can be divided into various categories -

  • Monounsaturated
  • Polyunsaturated
  • Saturated

Each of these fats provides a specific nutritional function and have both pros and cons, some more than others.

Unsaturated Fat – An unsaturated fat is a fat or fatty acid in which there is one or more double bond in the fatty acid chain. What exactly is it missing to be “un”-saturated? That’d be hydrogen atoms, some of which are eliminated when the double bonds are formed in the chain.

There are two types of unsaturated fats:

  • Monounsaturated Fat – A fat molecule is monounsaturated if it contains only one double bond. A good way to remember which fats are monosaturated is that they remain liquid at room temperature but may start to solidify in the refrigerator. Olives and olive oils, avocados, nuts and various nut oils all are good examples of monosaturated fats.
  • Polyunsaturated Fat – A fat molecule is polyunsaturated if it contains more than one double bond. Polyunsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature and when refrigerated. Polyunsaturated fats are considered the healthiest, and include the Omega oils (Omega 3, Omega 6)

Not all unsaturated fats are considered “healthy”. The trans fats we’ve heard so much about of late is an unsaturated fat, but deserves its own subcategory in the unsaturated fats field. I’ll discuss trans fats in a later post.

Saturated Fat – Saturated fatty acids have no double bonds between the carbon atoms of the fatty acid chain. Thus, since no hydrogen atoms are “exterminated”, they are “saturated” with hydrogen. You can recognize most saturated fats as they remain solid a room temperature. Think of bacon fat, butter, vegetable shortening, etc, etc.

This is a basic overview of fats, and I’ll discuss each individual fat in its own post later on.

Technorati Tags: Food, Fats, Nutrition

Olive Oil

Some believe that crude oil is this world’s most valued and influential commodity.

Not I. I fall firmly in the group of people who believe that Olive Oil has done more for our world than crude oil ever will. Humanity has been using olive oil as food, cosmetics, religious tools, cleansers and lighting fuel since 5000 BC. How long has crude oil been an influential liquid?

Olive oils came from the Mediterranean area. Specifically it’s difficult where to figure out who, exactly, figured out you could do so much with the oil, but we’re pretty sure it was the greeks who made olive oil commercially available to the masses. They were so dependant upon olive oil for their economy that in the 6th century BC, Solon, the great Athenian legislator, drafted laws protecting the olive tree, hoping to ensure that no one would cut down the trees intentionally.

Did I mention the virgins before? I don’t think so.

It is said that in ancient Greece, on some olive farms, only virgins could pick the olives, probably under the idea that an unsullied person could treat a fruit better than someone who has gotten some. *shrug* All I know is that 90% of my high school class could have never worked as an olive picker in Ancient Greece.

Here in America, we’re weren’t much of an olive oil nation until we started getting immigrants from the Meditteranean in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s. Before that, we were pretty much a “Lard” and “butter” country, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s nice to have options. However, in the 1700s, it was the Franciscan missionaries brought the first olive trees to the new world, placing them throughout Mexico and what is now California. So when the Italian and Greek immigrants began demanding olive oil, there were already resources to draw from at a much lower cost than if they were to import it all the way from Italy, Spain or Greece.

Olive oil is probably the fat that I cook with most often. So expect a few extra notes and recipes about this topic over the next week or so.