Despite the bad hype we actually need fats and oils to maintain good health. The walls of our cells are made up of a mixture of oil and protein. So we need good quality fats and oils to keep our cell walls healthy. This is most noticeable with skin and hair. Oils also contain the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
All our sex hormones come from cholesterol. At the same time, our brains need healthy oils to work properly. A shortage of cholesterol plays havoc with our memory. Our bodies need lots of Omega 3 oil to calm inflammation and every cell in our body needs oil for its cell membrane.
Cholesterol is the mother hormone, from which all the sex hormones are made. This process from cholesterol to sex hormones may be blocked by lack of the right nutrients, such as B vitamins, zinc and magnesium. If you don’t have enough of those nutrients in your body, the cholesterol your body makes backs up, as it cannot convert into the right hormones. It doesn’t have the right building blocks to do its job.
This results in a combination of high cholesterol and low sex hormones, leading to low libido, fatigue and hormone imbalances.
Other reasons why we need cholesterol
Cholesterol is needed for every cell in your body – especially the brain and liver. Enzymes convert it into vitamin D and it plays a major role in fighting bacterial infections.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance which is a major part of the cell membrane in every cell in the body. The brain holds about one quarter of all our cholesterol. The myelin sheath which covers every nerve cell is about 20% cholesterol and without it our brain cells and nerves would be like electrical wire stripped of its protective covering.
Most cholesterol is made in the liver. The liver uses it to produce bile acids needed for digestion of fats. Eating cholesterol makes no difference to our blood cholesterol levels. If we eat more cholesterol in our diet the liver makes less and if we eat less, then the liver starts making more.
As cholesterol is fatty, it is not water soluble and so it travels around the body attached to proteins with triglycerides called lipoproteins. LDL cholesterol (low density lipoprotein) carries cholesterol to cells that need it, HDL cholesterol (high density lipoprotein) picks up excess cholesterol and carries it back to the liver to be processed or re-used.
It’s well known that cholesterol helps fight infections – it helps knock out toxins from harmful bacteria. LDL is able to inactivate many bacterial toxins. HDL goes down when we have an infection as it’s used up in the fight, so a low cholesterol may leave you with an increased risk of infection.
Vitamin D is made from cholesterol using ultra-violet light. Now vitamin D is a really important vitamin which has a protective effect against heart disease, cancer, depression, osteoporosis and obesity. So with a low cholesterol you won’t be able to make enough Vitamin D. The rate of vitamin D deficiency in Australian, USA and North European countries is staggering since we all started covering up and working indoors. And lowering the cholesterol especially in older people, who tend to have low vitamin D anyway, risks depression and brain fog.
What Are Fats and Oils?
Fats and oils are carbon-based molecules occurring in long chains called fatty acids. Nature tends to use these chains as triglycerides – groups of three chains (from ‘tri’) held together with a glycerol molecule. This helps them become water-soluble. Thus, fats are transported around your blood stream as triglycerides. If you ever hear about triglycerides, it means we’re talking about fats that your body is moving around so that it can store them up until needed.
Our bodies also use fat stores to keep us warm and as a long-term energy source. Men’s bodies tend to have 15 to 18 percent fat, while women have 20 to 25 percent fat (as they need a little bit more energy stored for pregnancy). Obviously, obese people have a much higher percentage of their body as fat. Now our brain is about 2/3 fat. So we need lots of healthy fats to keep our brain in good working order.
Fats come in different types – saturated, mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated. They can also be solid at room temperature, like butter, or liquid like olive oil. Generally animal fat from meat, lard or dairy products is saturated, while vegetable oils tend to be unsaturated (coconut and palm oil are the exception). Saturated fats like butter and coconut oil tend to be solid at room temperature, while unsaturated fats like olive oil are liquid at room temperature. Oils and fats come in many types and may be in long, medium or short chains. The fats in butter, coconut and palm oil are a special type of saturated fat called medium chain fatty acids.
Trans fats are harmful
You can find these trans fats in any processed baked goods, cake mixes, non-dairy creamers, salad dressings and margarines. By changing vegetable oil from liquid to solid, usually by blowing hydrogen through it under pressure, this process creates trans fats. Any product that contains hydrogenated vegetable oils contains trans fat. 80% of trans fats come from hydrogenated vegetable oil which is processed in industrial quantities. These are highly processed and inflammatory and shouldn’t be reheated time and again which is unfortunately what happens in most restaurants. But it’s not just heart disease, the brain also utilises trans fats when DHA (a type of omega 3) is in short supply.
Essential Fatty Acids
Fatty acids are vitally important for good brain function and to lower inflammation in the body. The common fatty acids are Omega-3, 6 and 9. Our own bodies can make Omega-9, so we only really need to take in Omega-3 and 6. Omega-6 comes from vegetable sources like olive oil and nut oils, and also meat and dairy. But research has shown that while we get plenty of Omega-6, most of us are short of Omega-3 and our Omega-3:6 ratio is low
It is difficult to get enough Omega-3 fatty acid in our diet; tuna and salmon are the only good food sources of Omega-3 these days. So if you don’t eat a lot of oily fish, you would benefit from supplements. Fish or krill oil contain the highest source of Omega 3, however there are issues with their sourcing. Fish oil may contain traces of mercury and plastics such as BPA. Krill oil is a fantastic source of omega 3 and also contains the anti-oxidant astaxanthin. However by over-fishing krill we may interfere with the food chains for large marine mammals such as whales.
We need fats and oils to make our hormones and keep our cells and brain functioning, but we need healthy sources of them, such as vegetable oils like olive oil, nut oils and coconut oil. Animal fats can be unhealthy if they come from stressed, unhealthy animals fed on processed food and artificial chemicals. It’s important to eat the right kinds of fat and oils to keep our body functioning and our hormones working right.