More Fat Talks and Don’t Be a Tool.

UntitledIf you got no time for silly chitter-chatter, then skip ahead to the summary.  If you do, well, last post I wanted to solidify the organization of saturated, unsaturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, omega-6, and omega-3 in our heads.   To see how all those terms fit together.  They fly around EVERYWHERE, whether you’re perusing the peanut butter label at the supermarket or just the cover of Women’s Health while you wait in line.  If you read any health information from the internet, you DEFINITELY get tangled up in fat terms.

Quick review from someone who learns (and explains) by repetition. 

My apologies if you don’t like repetition.  It’s just how I think.  Always starting at the beginning and building and building.  Some people don’t like it.  They feel kind of belittled.  I don’t mean to do that, but I have to see the whole picture.

1.  Fats can be categorized many ways, just like we categorize people.  We can organize by gender, age, height, weight, skin color, and so on.  And JUST like when we try to box people, when we try to box up fats, the lines get crossed.

2.  One way to organize and box up fats is by whether or not the fat’s chemical bonds are single or double bonds.  Remember, fats are made up of three fatty acids tied onto a backbone called glycerol.  You can think of it like a big E.  That will be sufficient.

3.  Fatty acids are organic acids made up of strings of carbons hooked together.  If the carbons are hooked together by single bonds they are very stable because nothing is being shared and everything is saturated (with hydrogens).  Having to share can create problems in relationships sometimes, even though it provides the best solution.  Like a family sharing a bathroom.  In unsaturated fatty acids, at least one carbon is sharing a bond with another carbon, which makes them less stable than the saturated fatty acids.

4.  Unsaturated fats can be monounsaturated (MUFA=monounsaturated fatty acid), meaning only one double bond.  (Oleic acid is a MUFA in olive oil.)  Or polyunsaturated (PUFA=polyunsaturated fatty acid), meaning “many” double bonds.  Omega-6 (linoleic acid) and omega-3 (linolenic acid) are examples of types of polyunsaturated fatty acids that you hear about like crazy.

Okay.  Set that aside.  I’ll repeat it in another post and build on it.  Now, what’s MCT?

Today let’s figure out where that term MCT comes from!  MCT oil is all the rage.  And you’re told that coconut oil is nectar from the gods because it contains MCTs.  Good.  Good.

But WHAT are they talking about?  How does MCT fit into what we just learned about saturated and unsaturated?

Well, it doesn’t really.  It’s a different way to box up and categorize fats, this time not thinking about double or single bonds between strings of carbons.  Instead, this time thinking about HOW MANY carbons there are in the string!   Let’s get some acronyms out of the way.  Acronyms are killers.

MCT=medium chain triglycerides
MCFA=medium chain fatty acids (6-12 carbons)
LCT=long chain triglycerides
LCFA=long chain fatty acids (13-21 carbons)
SCFA=short chain fatty acids (less than 6 carbons)

So MCT (medium chain triglyceride) simply means a fat made up of that glycerine backbone and medium chain fatty acids on the arms.

And LCT simply means a fat made of that glycerine backbone and long chain fatty acids on the arms.

Short chain fatty acids do not really bond to a glycerine backbone.  So they are simply short chain fatty acids and not short chain triglycerides.

Most natural fats are combinations of all the terms we’ve thrown around so far.  For example, MCTs are not only in coconut products.

Summary for Today

Now you should be able to see a spot on the shelf for each of the terms that are commonly thrown around in health writings.

Think.  Can you now place where omega-3s go in a box?  And how about MUFA?  And PUFA?  And MCT?

I will keep laying out more and more about fats in little pieces.  In the end, what I hope to illustrate, is that for most people, keeping fats as real as possible is the best nutritional plan.  Not isolating and calling out the individual components like we have over the last several decades.  I KNOW there are times when more or less of anything is called for to intervene at times in life, but overall, the boxing up of fats, like the boxing up of people, can lead to broken hearts, brains, and bodies.

Eat real fats.  Eat less processed fats.  Eat your omega-3 as fish or grass-fed meat or fresh flax.  Eat your MUFAs in butter or avocados or olives.  Eat your omega-6s in nuts.  Eat real.

That is key.

When the terms start swirling.  The brain starts whirling.  The experts start shouting.  Diet camps start pouting.  Studies are retracted.  Twinkies– they sound attractive.  Stop.  Don’t throw up your hands and say they’re all crazy.  Just stop.  Eat real food.  Tell them all, doctors and food manufacturers alike:  YOU ARE NOT A TOOL.


11 thoughts on “More Fat Talks and Don’t Be a Tool.

      1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        Vegetable oils made into “butter” or whipped up into shortening and used like lard. I’m sure you have equivalents that I don’t know the names of, and I suspect even those are not in your kitchen, knowing your penchant for health-giving foods.

  1. andthreetogo

    I love the last paragraph, you are a poet! So quick question, I have seen flax seeds everywhere (even here, I know it’s amazing!), how do you eat them? Plain or in recipes? Got any good ones to share? :-/

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Flax seeds need to be fresh, fresh, fresh. Best to buy them whole and then grind them yourself or buy them from a source you trust and who can tell you they were ground fresh. They are rich in those polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly a form of omega-3 (linolenic acid) I talked about, which aren’t stable due to the double bonds. So they oxidize quickly. Quite valuable little seeds but need to be fresh. I have some grown right here in South Dakota available to me. I keep them in the fridge as soon as I open them. Then, I sprinkle them on baked fruit (yum) or toss in a smoothie if that’s something you already do. I also do bake with them a nice little muffin recipe we like. Flax tastes good in baked goods. You will read that they should not be baked with due to the omega-3 instability. On the other hand, I have read that, like olive oil, they carry some chemical properties which protect them while baking from oxidation. Since I haven’t had time to explore this as deeply yet as I want, we do not incorporate baked flax into our routine diet. But, yes, we do eat them baked about once a week to ten days. (Overall, I know some things are not optimal. I shoot for good, feeling good, and keeping the family happy with good, real food low on our customized intolerance scales.) This has been on my mind. I have a few other posts I need to get up, but I will read more on flax in baking. If I feel it passes muster, I will present the muffin recipe we like. Lastly, on this long reply, some will argue that flax is not ideal because we have to convert its specific form of the omega-3 (ALA) to the form our human body needs (linolenic acid—I remember that we want linolenic “in” us—unlike linoleic acid omega-6 which we already get enough of). They argue that this is an inefficient process and it is better to get animal sources of omega-3. However, I do think flax is a good substance if seeds are tolerated well by an individual. The special plant “fibers” in there are valuable for reasons beyond omega-3. Extra water should be consumed when they are added to a diet. I’ll stop now. 🙂


      1. andthreetogo

        Ok… Well I will say now that I could almost guarantee that flax is not fresh here. 😦 I am glad I asked you, because I would have bought them and I am sure they would have been old. 😦

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        Jenny, Some people find flax seeds very beneficial (in many ways, but also for female hormone issues), and if they are available to you, gee, I’d hate to see you miss an opportunity. Are they packaged in a dark, opaque container? Does it mention how they are packaged at all (indicating they took steps to get the ground flax into the container with as little exposure to air/light/heat as possible)? Where do they come from (as in, how far are they shipped)? Is there a date stamped on the bag regarding grinding date (don’t want them a year old!)? The whole seeds are more stable (but need ground). Are those available? —-On the other hand, I do not want people buying products with the unstable fats that have had the opportunity to go bad when there are other great food choices. The body then has to fix the damage of these oils and that’s a lot of work for the body. So if the flax packaging process seems like it passes some of these questions, it may be worth a try. Otherwise, I suggest you just wait and pick some up in California that do pass muster. And eat some great Thai traditional food made with real ingredients and traditional oils.

      3. andthreetogo

        They are the actual seeds, the bag is clear, and the writing is in Thai… 🙂 will be sticking to the Thai food and homemade
        Deliciousness for now.
        Thanks for all the info!

      4. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        The whole seeds keep a lot longer than the ground seeds. Nature gives good natural, protective packaging to keep nuts’ and seeds’ oils from oxidizing. So those should be okay. But you’d have to have a way to grind them to get the B vitamins, plant lignans, omega-3s available for use. Otherwise they’ll travel on through. More on flax than you ever wanted to know. 🙂

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