Mya Care Blogger 10 May 2022

The following article forms part 4 of a guide to dietary fats, offering useful tips for optimizing fat metabolism.

Part 1 covers fat classifications and the role fat plays in the body, part 2 covers essential dietary fats and part 3 covers non-essential dietary fats.

5 Pro Tips for Making the Most of Fats

Knowing about the types of fat one consumes is only half the equation. The below tips shed light on how to make the most of fats in one’s diet for the best results.

1. Optimize Fat Metabolism

The following pointers highlight ways in which one can optimize fat metabolism. It is important to note that due to genetic and environmental factors, not everyone metabolizes fat in the same way, and therefore, results may vary.

Cut Down on Refined Foods. The majority of highly refined fatty foods make use of fats that contain excessive amounts of trans fats, omega-6 fats and/or saturated fats with a bad rep, such as palmitic acid. Cutting down or entirely avoiding refined fatty foods can decrease a substantial portion of bad fats found in one’s diet, which are infamous for promoting deficiencies in essential fats. Refined foods also tend to contain emulsifiers, binders, fillers, insoluble fiber, and gums that bind to fats and can inhibit their absorption.[1] Psyllium and beta-glucan are two natural fibers that have the same effect.

Restrict Animal Product Intake. All animal-based products ought to be consumed in moderation for optimal metabolism, if not entirely avoided. Meat (excluding fish) ought to be especially moderated, as it is high in saturated fats that the human body already produces, with minimal levels of essential fats that the body requires from the diet. Grass-fed, free-range meat products appear to contain higher levels of omega-3 fats than other sources and are associated with potential benefits[2]. Fish, eggs and dairy products are healthier animal-based options, containing higher levels of both beneficial and essential fats.

Consume a Plant-Based Diet. Essential fat intake is best balanced by focusing on consuming healthy whole foods as part of a plant-based diet. This kind of diet need not be vegetarian, yet the emphasis ought not to be on animal products. A balanced plant-based diet ensures that the gut microbiome thrives. Gut microbes produce essential fatty acids either not present or deficient in food sources, as well as being required for optimal digestion and fat metabolism. Those that do not consume enough prebiotic foods (water-soluble fiber and plant-based nutrients) run a risk of being deficient in gut microbes, essential fats and many vital nutrients.

Nutrient Density. A diet high in phytochemicals (plant-based antioxidant nutrients) serves to regulate overall metabolism, including fat metabolism. Some phytochemicals can influence the ratio of fats in the body by interfering with their metabolism. Minimally refined cooking oils (see below) tend to retain nutrients that are also able to regulate fat metabolism and enhance various aspects of health. For example, virgin cold-pressed olive oil has been shown to be more effective at extending lifespan and lowering cellular DNA damage compared to other oils.[3]

Fat Variety. As expressed throughout this guide, a variety of fat is required for optimal metabolism. It is recommended that[4]:

  • Saturated fats consist of less than 30% of dietary fats consumed (less than 10% of total energy intake).
  • Monounsaturated fats account for up to 50-60% of fats consumed (15-20% of total energy intake).
  • Polyunsaturated fats contribute 20-30% of fat intake (5-10% of total energy intake).

Use Raw and Heated Cooking Oils. The heating oil is known to detract from its nutritional value by lowering the quantities of omega-3 and omega-6 and increasing the trans fat content. Therefore, moderating the use of cooking oil with the consumption of raw oils over salads or in wholefood sources (e.g. avocado) can increase the amount of essential fats consumed and decrease bad dietary fats. Furthermore, minimal heating for shorter time frames also contributes towards conserving nutrients found in fats.

2. Avoid Industrial Trans-Fats

Industrial trans-fats present in partially hydrogenated cooking oils are associated with many deleterious health effects. It has been recently understood that the body does not have the ability to properly metabolize these fats. Therefore, health advocates recommend avoiding them entirely, where possible.

Natural trans-fats are present in animal products and tend to pose health benefits when consumed in moderation. Nonetheless, long-term use of such fats has been shown to encourage fatty liver disease.[5]  

Consumption of less than 1% trans-fat is considered healthy[6], which is achievable through the moderate use of non-hydrogenated cooking oils. Both heating and reheating (recycling) cooking oils raise the trans-fat content. The difference in trans fat content is minimal when comparing saturated vs unsaturated cooking fats and oils.[7]

3. Smoke Point of Fats

The smoke point of a fat refers to the temperature at which it begins to smoke. Heat begins to break down the triglycerides present in fat, causing the by-products to become unstable. This results in oxidized fats and degraded nutrients that often ruin the flavor of food (less common to deodorized oils), promote rancidity and increase bodily inflammation when consumed. [8]

All cooking oils have relative smoke points, which can change depending on the way in which it was processed. The average cooking temperature for pan frying and similar applications tends to be around 180°C.

Rancid oils, oils that have less antioxidant nutrients in them or those that were oxidized during extraction (or prior cooking), tend to have lower smoke points.

Average smoke points for common cooking oils and fats (in °C) include:

  • Butter 150
  • Walnut 160
  • Lard 190
  • Olive 191
  • Coconut 193
  • Canola 204
  • Sesame 210
  • Macadamia 210
  • Grapeseed 215
  • Cottonseed oil 216
  • Almond 221
  • Sunflower 232
  • Corn 232
  • Peanut 232
  • Palm oil 35
  • Clarified butter 250
  • Safflower 266
  • Avocado 270

4. Opt for Minimally Refined Cooking Oils

Minimally refined oils are known to retain more of their nutritional value, which includes more than just the fatty acids mentioned in this review.

Virgin cold-pressed oils are extracted in such a way that conserves their nutritional purity as much as possible. As they are not heated over 40°C, there are little to no trans fats found in the final product, and the nutrients that are retained are of much better quality. Arguably, the main pitfall of opting for these oils is their flavor.

Be aware of non-reputable cooking oil suppliers, as they may not be pure.[9] This is particularly true of olive oil and other healthy vegetable oils.

Organic cooking oils are traditionally healthier due to containing lesser amounts of chemical pesticides.

RBD oils (refined, bleached and deodorized oils) typically contain far less nutritional value than their virgin cold-pressed counterparts. During manufacture, they are heated and treated with a solvent to extract the final product. Most of the nutrients are lost during the process. Higher amounts of trans fats can be found in these cooking oils by comparison to cold-pressed varieties; however, the levels are negligible. [10]

Hydrogenated vegetable oils are known to contain extremely high levels of trans fats (up to 50%) and ought to be avoided for optimal fat metabolism.

Whole foods are an important source of essential fatty acids to take into consideration. Nuts, seeds, fatty fruits like avocado, fungi (mushrooms), and marine foods contain small quantities of fats in the right ratios for health.

This is especially pertinent for dietary omega-3 fats, the metabolism of which can be easily affected by the cooking oils one chooses to use. It is advisable to consume roughly 2-3 portions (±8 oz.) of seafood per week to maintain adequate omega-3 levels[11]. For vegetarians and those that consume less fish, a supplement is recommended. Krill oil was shown to offer better uptake of DHA and EPA than fish oil or algae.[12]

5. Store Fat in Cool Conditions Away from Light

Most cooking oils are prone to degradation and rancidity when stored at higher ambient temperatures and exposed to light. It is advisable to keep them at cool temperatures and away from light. Glass is known to be superior to plastic for storing oils as well, as it prevents contamination with plastic particles and better preserves the oil’s nutritional value.


Fats are vital components of all cells in the human body, with multiple sites of the cell playing an active role in their metabolism. Data from recent years has begun to highlight how no type of fat is inherently unhealthy unless consumed out of accordance with ratios for health. Fat metabolism is tightly governed by a narrow set of enzymes, for which many types of fats compete with one another. Therefore, dietary fats ought to be consumed in ratios that allow for optimal health.

Deficits in essential fats are known to play a leading role in promoting problems pertaining to faulty fat metabolism. Deficiencies may be enhanced at the cellular level through factors that impact the proper absorption and utilization of fat, such as the over-consumption of any type of fat, genetics, and inadequate nutrition.  Consuming a balanced, nutrient-dense diet low in refined foods can go a long way towards regulating fat metabolism.

While the optimal ratio for health is still a matter of debate, research indicates that a higher intake of monounsaturated fat (specifically of oleic acid) is ideal. Consumption of saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats should be moderated, with an emphasis on the latter providing the best results. Minimal refining and heating preserves the nutritional quality of fats and increases their benefit.

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