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June 07, 2023 9 min read

The types of fats you consume play a crucial role in maintaining optimal thyroid function. Fats are not all created equal, and some can positively impact your thyroid health. By making informed choices about the types of fats you include in your diet, you can support your thyroid gland and promote overall well-being.

Let's take a look at the different types of fats that benefit thyroid function, empowering you to make healthier dietary choices.

Do we need fat?

Fat often gets a bad reputation, but the truth is that our bodies require fat for various essential functions. Fat is a vital nutrient that provides energy, supports cell growth, aids in absorbing fat-soluble vitamins, and helps protect our organs. Without a sufficient intake of healthy fats, our bodies, including our thyroid gland, may not function optimally.

We all need to eat a small amount of fat to have a balanced and healthy diet. The right amount of fat helps our bodies to stay warm and have the energy to make hormones that help our bodies work the way they should.

What are the different types of fat?

Dietary fat is what we refer to as the fat obtained from the foods we consume. Our bodies have the ability to break these fats down into components called fatty acids, which can then be absorbed into our bloodstream. Additionally, our system can also create fatty acids from the carbohydrates present in the food we eat.

Fatty acids play a crucial role in the formation of fats needed by our bodies. They have a significant impact on the way our body utilizes various vitamins and contribute to the structure and function of all cells within our system.

However, not all dietary fats are created equal. Their effects on our bodies can vary greatly, with some being essential for our health, while others may increase the risk of certain diseases, and some may even help to prevent ailments. The two main types of dietary fats are saturated fat and unsaturated fat. These classifications are based on the distinct chemical structures of their fatty acids.

Most foods contain a combination of various types of fat; however, some have higher proportions of saturated fats, while others are more abundant in unsaturated fats. Here's a breakdown of the key differences between these fats:

  1. Saturated fats: These fats are generally solid at room temperature, and their primary sources include animal-based products like meats and dairy.

  2. Unsaturated fats: Typically found in liquid form at room temperature, unsaturated fats are primarily present in vegetable oils, nuts, and fish. Unsaturated fats can be further classified into two subtypes: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fats have one or more double bonds in their molecular structure, which makes them liquid at room temperature. They are known for their beneficial effects on heart health when consumed in moderation.

There are two main types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats have one double bond, while polyunsaturated fats have two or more double bonds.

Monounsaturated fats

Monounsaturated fats are healthy dietary fat that is good for your health. Consuming monounsaturated fats in moderation can have a positive impact on cholesterol levels by increasing the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (or "good" cholesterol) while reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol).

Monounsaturated fat can be found in various foods; here are some examples.

  • Nuts like almonds, cashews, and peanuts

  • Seeds, such as sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds

  • Certain types of fish, such as salmon and mackerel

By incorporating dietary fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) in a balanced amount, you'll be able to maintain good health and support optimal bodily functions.

Polyunsaturated fats

Polyunsaturated fats are a type of dietary fat that is considered essential for our bodies. These fats are characterized by their chemical structure, which contains multiple double bonds in their fatty acid chains.

Polyunsaturated fats are generally categorized into two:

  • Omega-6 fatty acids can be found in plant-based oils like corn oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, and peanut oil. Omega-6 fatty acids are often linked to better blood sugar control, lower triglycerides, lower bad cholesterol levels, and higher good cholesterol levels.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in oily fish like salmon and tuna, seeds like chia seeds and flaxseeds, and nuts like walnuts. Having a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may help lower the levels of triglycerides in your blood and lower your risk of blood vessels and heart disease.

Maintaining a balanced ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 fats is important. This is because excessive consumption of omega-6 fats, especially when not balanced with sufficient omega-3 intake, can contribute to chronic inflammation, which is associated with various health issues.

Can polyunsaturated fat harm you?

Polyunsaturated fat is often thought of as healthy, and it does have numerous benefits for your health. However, it can sometimes be harmful because of its structure, especially for people with hypothyroidism. These fats have a more open structure due to the presence of double bonds and fewer hydrogen atoms. This makes them more likely to form free radicals, which are unstable and can cause problems in our bodies.

When inside our body, these fats can quickly spoil or become "rancid," leading to a reaction that produces free radicals. These free radicals can harm our cells in different ways, like making them less able to produce energy, causing them to age faster, and leading to inflammation.

Another hidden danger of this type of fat lies in its potential to harm the thyroid function and hormonal balance in our bodies. They negatively impact thyroid function by:

  1. Blocking thyroid hormone formation.

  2. Preventing the release of thyroid hormones.

  3. Hindering thyroid hormone transportation.

  4. Reducing the cell's response to thyroid hormone.

These fats really put the brakes on thyroid function, which in turn plays a role in the development of obesity. Over time, thyroid function decreases naturally as a result of polyunsaturated fats accumulating in the body.

A proper thyroid function is essential for producing anti-aging and anti-stress hormones like pregnenolone, progesterone, and DHEA, as well as maintaining optimal liver function. When thyroid function is low, protective hormone production decreases, the liver struggles to detoxify estrogen effectively, and an excess of polyunsaturated fats leads to a shift in hormonal balance. This results in a low-energy state with high estrogen levels, low progesterone, and pregnenolone levels, and reduced thyroid function.

Therefore, we have to be mindful of how much-polyunsaturated fats we eat to keep our bodies healthy.

Cutting down on polyunsaturated fats

You might be confused since you've probably heard that polyunsaturated fats are a good kind of fats. However, because of the potential harm from too many polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), it's not healthy if you consume too many. Therefore, it's a good idea to limit them in your diet. The tricky part is that these fats are in many types of food.

You'll find them in things like liquid oils, seeds, grains, nuts, and oily fish. They're even in some meats and leafy greens.

An easy way to spot polyunsaturated fat is to check if it stays liquid when it's cold (like in the fridge). If it does, you should try not to eat it.

Some common oils with polyunsaturated fats include corn, canola, cottonseed, soy, safflower, sunflower, flaxseed, sesame, peanut, almond, walnut, avocado, and fish oils.

How to eliminate polyunsaturated fats that are already stored in your body?

If you've been eating unsaturated fats for a long time, they might be stored in your body. When your body is stressed, like when you're hungry or tired, it releases these fats. If a lot of these fats are polyunsaturated, they can cause more stress, mess with your thyroid, and cause other health problems.

To help fix this, you can:

  1. Eat more saturated fats, which help replace the polyunsaturated fats in your body over time.

  2. Understand that swapping these fats can take a long time, even up to four years.

  3. Remember that your liver works to clean out the polyunsaturated fats as they're replaced, and they leave your body when you pee.

  4. Don't go too long without eating to help reduce stress on your body.

  5. Take niacinamide (vitamin B3) supplements to help stop your body from releasing fats when you're stressed.

Saturated fat

Saturated fats are a type of dietary fat commonly found in animal products and some plant-based foods. They differ from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats because they don't have double bonds in their molecular structure. Solid at room temperature, saturated fats can be found in fatty cuts of meat, poultry with skin, full-fat dairy products, butter, lard, coconut oil, and plant-based oils like palm oil and palm kernel oil.

In recent years, saturated fats have been the subject of much debate due to their potential impact on heart health. However, saturated fat actually has some benefits, especially for those with thyroid issues.

Safe and protective fats, like saturated fats, contain only about 1-3% polyunsaturated fatty acids. This category includes butter and coconut oil, which are solid at refrigerator temperature. Because of their unique structure, saturated fats don't have the harmful effects of polyunsaturated fats. In fact, they have several beneficial properties, such as supporting thyroid function, reducing stress, fighting inflammation, and acting as germ-killers.

Importantly, saturated fats are not linked to atherosclerosis and heart disease. Instead, polyunsaturated fats can damage blood vessel walls through inflammation and free radical chain reactions, leading to atherosclerosis.

Including saturated fats in your daily diet is a smart move, as they help protect against the harmful effects of unavoidable polyunsaturated fats, even in a diet tailored to minimize these fats. The key factor is maintaining the right balance between saturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Trans fats

Trans fats are a type of fat that can negatively impact your cholesterol levels, causing an increase in bad cholesterol and a decrease in good cholesterol. Small amounts of trans fats do occur naturally in meats and dairy products from grazing animals like cows, sheep, and goats. However, most trans fats result from chemically altering plant oils to create partially hydrogenated oils, which used to be considered a healthy alternative to saturated fats due to their cost-effective production process and extended shelf life.

Trans fats can be commonly found in foods such as:

  • Fried foods, including French fries

  • Baked goods like cakes, pies, biscuits, cookies, crackers, and doughnuts

  • Microwave popcorn

  • Frozen pizza

While trans fats may enhance the taste and texture of food, they are detrimental to your health due to their effect on cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends keeping trans fat intake to a minimum, no more than 1% of your daily calorie intake.

However, it is important to note that trans-fat-free foods are not always healthy, as they may still contain unhealthy levels of saturated fat, sugar, and salt. Carefully read the labels before consuming packaged or processed food products.

What fats should you eat?

Certain fats can play a beneficial role in improving thyroid function. Here are some types of fats that can support thyroid health:

Coconut oil

Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which can help support thyroid function. MCTs are easily digested and quickly converted into energy, providing a readily available fuel source for the thyroid gland. Adding moderate amounts of coconut oil to your cooking or using it as a substitute for other cooking oils may be beneficial.

Opt for refined coconut oil, which has been filtered to remove any odors. Many individuals may be sensitive to the aromatic compounds found in virgin or unrefined coconut oil, making refined coconut oil a more suitable choice for these individuals.

Cacao butter

Cacao butter, the fatty component found in chocolate and cacao, can occasionally be purchased as a standalone fat product. It boasts a rich flavor and can be used as a cooking fat or as an ingredient in homemade chocolate-based treats.

Butter, ghee, and cream

Ghee, also known as clarified butter, has a higher smoke point compared to butter, making it an ideal choice for higher-temperature cooking. These fats can be used for cooking, baking, and adding richness to meals.

Olive oil

Olive oil is a healthy fat, with about 10% polyunsaturated fats. It's recommended to consume no more than 1-2 teaspoonfuls per day. This heart-healthy oil can be used for cooking or drizzling over salads, adding flavor and beneficial nutrients to your meal.

Conclusion: The roles of fats in thyroid health

The fats we choose to include in our diets play a crucial role in maintaining optimal thyroid function. Ensuring balanced consumption of healthy fats that reduce inflammation, supply vital nutrients, and foster overall well-being is key to supporting thyroid health.

In conjunction with a balanced diet, consider incorporating a natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) supplement like VitaliThy into your routine. VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online, contains Thyroid (USP), a vital ingredient for thyroid support. Plus, this NDT supplement is free from common allergens such as lactose, gluten, eggs, fish, and shellfish. This means that those with sensitivities or dietary restrictions can confidently incorporate VitaliThy into their wellness journey.

Wondering if carbohydrate is good for you? Let's see if low-carbohydrate diet is a way to go for hypothyroid people!

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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