Heart Healthy Fats [Standford University CF Centre]
BY MARIANNE REES SCHROEDER, RD
Milk, butter, cheese — For most adults living with cystic fibrosis, those
food items are staples in an everyday high-calorie, high-protein diet.
Fat found in dairy products pairs well with most meals, and is excellent
at boosting calories. But don’t be fooled. Dairy is not the only option
available. You’re probably well aware of avocado and trail mix, but what
sets these fats apart from fats found in dairy and butter?
For starters, the fat found in dairy is primarily saturated, which means that there is a single bonded hydrogen atom attached to every carbon atom. The fatty acid is saturated with hydrogen. Think of a row of movie seats at a theater showing a new action movie that was just released this week. On opening night, every seat will be occupied — the theater is saturated with people. And, there is not a lot of room to move around because it’s crowded. The structure that those saturated carbons and hydrogens create is stiff and straight, so saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature. Saturated fats have a similar impact on cell membranes in your body. Consuming too many saturated fats may contribute to a more rigid environment in your body.
Unsaturated fats, however, are like the showing of the original Ghost busters film from 1984 that I attended last weekend. Every row of the theater had at least one unoccupied seat (most had many open seats). The theater was unsaturated, and there was a lot of flexibility for seating (which is truly unfortunate given that Ghostbusters is a classic). Un-saturated fats are more typically fluid or liquid at room temperatureand provide more flexibility in the body. This is because unsaturated fats have a kinked structure in which some carbon atoms are not attached to a hydrogen atom but, instead, have double bonds to other carbons, kinking the fatty acid.
Popular unsaturated fats include olive oil, olives, avocado, nuts/seeds, and fatty fish like salmon or sardines.
Prioritizing unsaturated fats promotes heart health because unsaturated fats create a more fluid cell membrane, which helps reduce inflammation. Unsaturated fats may also contain the antioxidant vitamin E, which is another ally for fighting inflammation. Cystic fibrosis is an inflammatory condition, so choosing fats that support anti-inflammatory action in the body may help mitigate your body’s inflammatory response.