I was reading one of my favorite health blogs — Summer Tomato by Darya Pino — when I stumbled across a sentence that summarized everything I’ve been thinking about the nature of fats:
It breaks my heart that dietary fat got such a bad rap the past few decades, since the benefits of healthy fats like olive oil are innumerable. Fat isn?t just ?not bad? for you, it?s essential.
Precisely!! When my roommate complains that my homemade pesto has too much “fat,” I want to slap my forehead. The fat purely comes from olive oil, pine nuts and walnuts. In other words, it’s “good” fat — “great” fat, even.
I promise not to get too science-y, but here’s a primer on how fat works:
Imagine a whole bunch of carbon atoms. Now picture that every single one of them bond with a hydrogen atom. This is a “saturated” fat — the carbon atoms are saturated with hydrogen. (I’m oversimplifying, in part to keep this blog post interesting, and in part because I suck at chemistry.)
Now, imagine a whole bunch of carbon atoms — but this time, some of the carbons don’t bond to hydrogen. Some of them bond to other carbons. These are “unsaturated” fats.
Saturated fats are bad. Unsaturated fats are good. Again, I’m oversimplifying, plus I’ve totally left out any discussion of “trans” fats (in a word: bad). But this isn’t a science blog. I only bring up the difference between the chemical compounds to illustrate something important: fats come in all forms. Fats are chemically — essentially — different from one another.
Lumping all of them under one umbrella — the “fat” umbrella — is deceiving. That word has gotten such a bad rap. But the fats in olive oil, walnuts and, yes, pesto, are different from bacon and sausage fat in the most fundamental way. Their basic composition is different. Their effect on your body is different.
Good fats will prevent aging and make you a healthier person. Bad fats will accelerate aging and make you less healthy.