Essential fatty acids: the good fats

Published: 5 October, 2016 - Updated: 17 July, 2017 | 2'

Essential fatty acids: the good fats

For most people, the word “fat” has a negative connotation. Popular belief is that fats don't only make you put on weight, they also increase the risk of many illnesses. Essential Fatty Acids are good fats.

Not all fats are bad. Among those popularly known as being “good” are essential fatty acids. They're called such because, like vitamins, they are vital for our health and cannot be produced by the human body, so must therefore be obtained through diet. If we eat the correct type of fats, in suitable amounts and proportions, and prepare them in the correct way, they can keep us healthy.

More than seventy different fatty acids have a role in our metabolism, most of which come from our diet. From a nutritional point of view, we can separate them into two groups: non-essential, which can be synthesized by the body; and essential, which need to be included in our diet. Their balance, whether quantitative or qualitative, must be taken into account because they determine our health.

Most plant-based cooking oils are rich in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids, and should therefore be included in our diets, replacing animal fats, which are richer in saturated fatty acids, such as butter, animal fat and suet.

All cooking oils that are rich in essential fatty acids have properties in common, as well as their individual properties, in addition to different smells and flavours. In general, these oils reduce the amount of toxins in animal fats (meat, butter, etc.) and help stop them from solidifying on joints and in blood vessels, which contributes to cardiovascular health. Another characteristic that they have is that they reduce very low density lipoproteins (VLDL), triglycerides and "bad" cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) in blood.

Here is a list of plant-based cooking oils' most common uses and properties:

  • Food Supplement: They provide a large amount (and variety) of essential fatty acids, which we need to keep us healthy and our skin hydrated.
  • As part of our usual diet: These oils can be used alone or added to countless recipes. They are especially ideal for dressing salads or adding to sauces, soups, pasta, rice, cereals or drizzled on toast as a substitute for butter and margarine.
  • Cellular antioxidant: There are several ways that essential fatty acids can help us keep healthy. For example, they're an important component of cell membranes, they isolate nerves and protect tissues. They therefore protect skin from premature aging and the action of free radicals.
  • Skin care: They are great for hydrating our hands and bodies.