Science is always a knowledge under construction; and throughout the centuries it has forced us to modify the way we conceive the world. Sometimes it shakes him hard, and if not, let’s think about the blow to the human ego that meant having to accept that the Earth was not the center of the universe …
It happens in physics and also in nutrition: around the 1970s the paradigm of healthy eating was strengthened from the caloric count. It was thought that as fats provide more calories, the logical thing was to lower their proportion in meals.
“Both those of animal origin and vegetables were, in a certain way, contraindicated for a good diet,” he highlights. Ruben Salcedo, doctor specializing in nutrition and obesity.
“However, fats serve vital functions, and some are essential; that means that the body cannot synthesize them, so we have to consume them ”, explains the nutritionist Laura Lamb, doctor -in addition- in Social Sciences.
“For example, if you don’t consume fat, the body has difficulty absorbing fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), which are essential. And 20% of dietary cholesterol, mostly animal fat, is captured in the intestine and -through the blood- it comes into contact with the skin; there, with the sun’s rays, it generates vitamin D ”, he warns Mariela Cordoba, Specialist in Nutrition at the Ramón Carrillo Health Center, in Yerba Buena.
“They also provide energy, because they function as fuel, while forming part of cell membranes”, Cordero highlights, adding: “They are also essential for the formation of hormones, those transmitters of messages that go throughout the body indicating what are the activities, functions or processes that must be carried out ”.
“It is very important to know who the ‘real suspects’ are. Because an adequate intake of certain fats can even help us in our goal of achieving and / or maintaining a healthy weight and a conscious diet “, adds Cordero, and explains:” the fats in our meals provide satiety, and lead us to stop eating , which does not happen with products based mainly on refined, ultra-processed flours and sugars … These are some of the real ‘baddies’ of the film ”.
The ones that do us good
Whether or not fats are of animal origin is not an indicator that they are necessarily “good” or “bad”.
“Animal fat is by no means automatically bad,” Lamb says bluntly; Those of cold-water fatty fish (salmon, tuna, hake or sole), without going any further, are those that contain essential fatty acids (omega 3 and omega 6), which are very important so that many functions of the organism”. “And eggs (see separately), which were ‘the scapegoat’ of the ‘caloric’ paradigm, for decades, are today a fundamental pillar of healthy eating,” he adds.
Vegetable fats, meanwhile, are present in oils (all recommended, except palm), in nuts, in seeds such as chia, in certain derivatives of soy, such as tofu.
“The consumption -which, as always and with everything, must be balanced- of all these ‘good’ fats reduces cardiovascular risk; it has anti-inflammatory effects (which makes it possible to prevent pro-inflammatory autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis), helps the neurological development of the fetus and, as if that were not enough, they give us greater longevity ”, highlights Salcedo.
There is another clarification to make about vegetable fats: none contain cholesterol.
“This, like fats in general, was also ‘demonized’ by the previous paradigm, and continues to be so by marketing. Our body produces cholesterol because it needs it: it is what gives cell membranes permeability, and allows them to communicate with each other. And what food provides us with cholesterol is negligible ”, Cordero emphasizes.
“In addition,” adds Salcedo, “these fats are not stored so easily in the body in a massive way, but rather, as fuel, they go mainly to cellular metabolism.”
“This use as fuel is facilitated in a context where there is no excess consumption of carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates – Cordero stands out for his part – It is that both are fuels, and carbohydrates are easier for the body to use.”
The ones that don’t
“The fats that we should not consume are the so-called trans fats, present in hydrogenated oils, such as margarine”, warns Salcedo, and highlights that they increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and different types of cancer.
Having overcome the paradigm of calorie counting, and having been shown that the contribution of fat from what we eat to our cholesterol is negligible, it is clear that eggs are one of the most complete foods, and it is recommended in almost all subsistence allowance. The protein content in the white is high, yes. But the yolk is also very important; for example, its characteristic yellow tone is due to a natural dye, carotenoid, which is very rich in vitamin A. However, there are those who avoid eating it (and those who continue to recommend it) claiming cholesterol. “And they stop receiving their enormous bioavailability of nutrients. These include calcium, sodium, iron, potassium, vitamin B, B12, D, and K, among others. “In addition, Cordero highlights, it is ‘easy’: the kitchen solves for us in many ways: from being a breakfast in itself to being part of the most diverse preparations”.
Nuts and seeds
They are an important source of healthy oils, but they also share with fish the fact that part of them are the essential omega 3. Not only can they be very healthy when consumed (“as with everything,” Cordero emphasizes) as part of a balance diet. Nuts protect the heart: they are a source of L-arginine, a substance that helps arteries to be more flexible and makes it less easy for clots to block blood flow, the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, United States highlights on its website. United. The seeds, for their part, provide proteins; fiber and antioxidants, as well as essential minerals, such as calcium, zinc, copper and magnesium that support bone health.
These tasty fruits were also on the “forbidden” lists at the time. The contraindication did not come from the side of cholesterol (being vegetable they do not have it), but from the side of calories, which -in truth- are quite a lot: 160 calories for every 100 grams of avocado that we eat. And with the old model it did not seem the best ally to lose weight. But with the “new” (which is not so much) healthy eating parameters, your fat intake is key: it does not generate a rapid rise or fall in blood glucose (which is what triggers the craving and the need to eat ); on the contrary, it has a lot of satiating power. And several other virtues: it provides vitamins K, C, B5, B6 and E; in addition to potassium and folic acid.