I am going to say that one more time, Fats are delicious.  Not only are they delicious they are essential.   With out fats we would become deficient in the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. We would miss out on a vital energy source. We would create hormonal imbalances. We would impair cellular function.  In addition, they add texture and flavor to many dietary choices.

Fats are classified as lipids. Lipids include: triglycerides, phospholipids and sterols

Triglycerides

Fatty acids are the simplest form of lipids.  When three fatty acids combine on a glycerol backbone you have a triglyceride.   Triglycerides are the primary source of lipids in the body and in foods.  Fatty acids come in two forms saturated or unsaturated.   The distinction is a result of the number of hydrogen atoms occupying the available carbon atoms.   In short saturated fatty acids have all their carbon atoms occupied.  Animal fats are high in saturated fats.   Unsaturated fatty acids don’t have all their carbon atoms occupied by hydrogens.   There are two types of unsaturated fatty acids: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.  Plants are the primary sources of unsaturated fats.  However, it is to note that all fat contains a combination of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.   They are just distinguished by the dominate fatty acid available.

Phospholipids

Phospholipids are similar to a triglyceride in that they are built on a glycerol backbone. They differ in that one of the fatty acids is replaced with a compound containing a phosphorus.  Many phospholipids exist in the body and brain. They play an important part of cell membranes.

Sterols

Although not technically a lipid it is classified as so because it does not dissolve in water.   Sterols are a multi-ringed structure and no glycerol backbone.   Best known sterol is cholesterol, a waxy type of substance. The body makes all the cholesterol it needs and is not dependent on dietary sources.  Additionally, dietary sources have little to no impact on body cholesterol.

So, what do you need to know?

The average diet consists primarily of saturated fatty acids as a result of our high consumption of animal sources such as beef, poultry and pork.  This high consumption of saturated fatty acids has left many deficient in essential fatty acids.  Recall essential means the can not make on its own and therefore requires it through dietary sources.

Essential Fatty Acids

There are two essential fatty acids linoleic acid (omega-3) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-6).  These two essential fatty acids form vital body structures, perform important roles in immune function and vision, help form cell membranes and produce eicosanoids.   Our cells lack the enzymes to create these fatty acids.  Only plant sources can make the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

With sufficient amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 available the body will then covert them to the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  Both EPA and DHA are important for the brain and nervous system.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 create a check and balance aspect in the body.  For instance, omega-3 has an anti-inflammatory response verse omega-6 has a pro-inflammatory response or omega-3 anti-coagulate verse omega-6 coagulate.

Your Goal

Your goal is to consume more polyunsaturated fatty acids that contain omega-3 and omega-6 to give the body what it needs to create EPA and DHA and/or to consume foods sources that readily contain EPA and DHA.  Below are some examples and not a complete list.

Omega-3 sources Omega-6 sources Monounsaturated EPA/DHA
Flaxseeds Tofu Nuts Mackerel
Chia Seeds Nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, etc.) Avocados Salmon
Walnuts Seeds (pumpkins, sunflower, hemp, pistachios, etc.) Canola Oil Cod Liver Oil
Soy Beans Avocados Olive Oil Herring
Hemp Seed Nut Butters Sunflower Oil Oysters
Brussel Sprouts Peanut Butters Safflower Oil Sardines
Perilla Oil Quinoa Peanut butter and oil Anchovies
Eggs Caviar