Healthy fats: what they are and what they are

Healthy fats: what they are and what they are
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Healthy fats: what they are and what they are

Even if in the common imagination i grassi are often demonized, their intake is as important as that of any other macronutrient (proteins and carbohydrates). The secret is to pay attention not only to the quantity but also quality of the fat consumed. But how to recognize the right quality and above all how to know how many we should take in the various meals of the whole family? We see it together with Romina Cervigni, nutritionist and scientific director of the Valter Longo Onlus Foundation.

In this article

What are and what are healthy fats

Doctor Cervigni, what are they and what are healthy fats?

"Simplifying the classification as much as possible, we can say that fats are divided into unsaturated and saturated, and simplifying even more, we can say that unsaturated fats are "good" they satiate "bad."

If you have ever wondered what "saturated" fat means, you should know that it is a chemical nomenclature that indicates that there is no possibility of forming other bonds from a chemical point of view, so the structure is really "saturated"! The unsaturated ones, on the other hand, have several double bonds and this affects the degree of fluidity of the food, such as'oil. This is why vegetable oils such asolive oil, rich in unsaturated fats, are generally liquid at room temperature, while in the same conditions animal fats have a solid consistency, just think of butter.

Beware of hydrogenated fats. "Furthermore, when a vegetable oil, therefore an unsaturated fat, is transformed on an industrial level with the addition of hydrogen molecules to the chemical structure, hydrogenated fats / oils are obtained. This hydrogenation process alters the structure of the vegetable fat, transforming it from a liquid substance to a solid This reaction is carried out by carrying out various phases, which involve the use of high pressure, hydrogen in the gaseous state, a metal catalyst and other processes. If saturated fats are the bad guys, hydrogenated fats are even worse and should be avoided. We find them in packaged and industrial products such as snacks, baked goods, packaged chips as they are often a cheaper choice for companies.

In a food there is hardly a single type of fat, but there can be one that is in a much higher percentage.

Unsaturated fats: help for the body. "Unsaturated fats include omega-3 and the omega-6 which are defined as essential fatty acids because our body is not able to produce them starting from other substances but it is necessary to introduce them through the diet. The interest in essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6 stems from the fact that they are precursors of important biological molecules. They are sources of these fatty acids fatty fish, nuts and vegetable oils ".

Read also: Diet during pregnancy: choose omega 3 fats

Because healthy fats are good for your health

Why are unsaturated fats good for health?

"Fats are components of the membranes of our cells, including those of neurons and for this they contribute, in growing organisms, to the development of the brain and cognitive functions. Even in adults, the correct intake of fats is essential as lipids are important for the formation of myelin, a substance that protects the nerves and allows the conduction of the nerve impulse.

Fats definitely represent one irreplaceable source of energy, in fact, they provide 9 kcal per gram, more than double compared to other nutrients (each gram of protein and carbohydrates in fact brings about 4 Kcal) ".

"Although not known to many, fats help the absorption of so-called "fat-soluble" vitamins, that is, that they "dissolve" in fats. The dressing of vegetables (rich in vitamins) with extra virgin olive oil (fat), for example, therefore takes on a important nutritional value, as well as tasty. In fact, dietary fats help to give flavor to food e they favor the sense of satiety, precisely because they are more caloric and take longer to digest ".

"If we then consume body fat, it is right that it is present within the right limits, because it protects the organs from possible trauma, such as a fall. It also acts as a thermal insulation for low temperatures and this is why many animals that live in cold environments are covered with an abundant layer of body fat: penguins, polar bears, seals and many others ".

"Proper fat intake then becomes irreplaceable in the production of hormones, including sexual ones, as it represents a precursor ".

Read also: The right snacks that energize between meals

Healthy fats: how many adults should consume

What intake of healthy fats should mum and dad have?

"You cannot do without a certain amount of fat. According to the Reference Intake Levels of Nutrients and Energy for the population of Del Paesena (LARN) they must not be lower than 20% of the total calories consumed, but generally settles at 35%. Of these, less than 10% should be saturated, while trans fats should be as little as possible. Essential fats (omega 3) must be around 250 mg per day ".

Healthy fats: how many should kids consume

What intake of healthy fats should children and young people have?

"In the children the situation is similar, with some differences based on age. Precisely because fats support the correct physical and neuronal development of the little ones, children from 1 to 3 years old should have a fat intake of about 35-40% of the total energy. From the age of 4, the percentages drop slightly and are the same as those of the grown-ups ".

"In the Boyi, on the other hand, since the body undergoes various changes during adolescence, it is important to limit the consumption of products particularly rich in trans fats such as french fries, hamburgers, sweets and so on. One strategy can be that of avoid keeping unhealthy food at home, making their children find mainly healthy and tasty foods, so as to confine the consumption of these foods only to going out with friends. In this regard, given that in this age children often become more sensitive to problems related to health and the environment, it is essential to provide for moments of nutritional education, such as those conducted by our foundation through webinars ".

Read also: The diet to strengthen the immune system: tips for young and old

Healthy fats in the family diet

Could you give us some examples of how to introduce them into the family's diet? What healthy fats to eat for breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner?


"In addition to the classic bread and jam, or rusks and jam, the addition of fats deriving from walnuts, almonds, or other dried fruit, allows you to complete breakfast in a balanced way, keeping the glycemic index low and avoiding hyperglycemic peaks, which are often followed by drops in blood sugar, resulting in drowsiness and a feeling of a hole in the stomach, often confused with hunger, and this leads to a circle vicious that is repeated throughout the day ".

"Another tasty example of a breakfast is bread or rusk, with one 100% hazelnut cream, peanuts or almonds and a fresh fruit of the season or a freshly squeezed juice ".


"For lunch you can opt for a second based on fat fish, such as salmon or sardines, also ideal in salads. To the source of protein and fat, you must also add vegetables, raw or cooked to taste. Among others, vegetables such as pumpkin, carrots, green beans and broccoli, are rich in vitamin A, a fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin useful for fighting infections, which is best absorbed when combined with fat. An example could therefore be a salmon fillet with a broccoli cream and accompanying bread or rice, all seasoned with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Another example: salad with mixed vegetables, drained sardine fillets in oil and a slice of wholemeal bread ".


"The simplest thing for a healthy and tasty snack is to combine a fresh seasonal fruit and nuts. For example, a pear and walnuts, or an apple and almonds. In place of nuts, dark chocolate is also good, with a high percentage of cocoa, as it is itself a source of fat. For example, a greedy idea is a banana cut into slices and covered with 100% melted dark chocolate. The bitterness of the chocolate will dissolve thanks to the sugars in the fruit and the impact of the sugars will be dampened by the healthy fats of the cocoa ".


"A very easy idea for a refreshing, warm and winter dinner is one vegetable soup, for example a pumpkin soup with rice or pasta cooked inside, with a drizzle of oil and pumpkin seeds lightly toasted in a pan. The seeds are an excellent source of unsaturated fats and are easy to consume, even on the go or to garnish and complete dishes. If, on the other hand, we want a more "classic" dinner, we can make a plate of pasta with zucchini sauce or tomato sauce and mackerel ".

Where to contact for information on a balanced diet

Who and where could families turn to for more information about healthy eating?

"The important thing is to turn to trusted and authoritative sources of information based on a detailed and complete scientific research, based on reliable data and in-depth research", says Dr. Cervigni. "The problem is to understand who to contact, in the sea of ​​information on the web. For this reason, an important part of our Foundation's mission is to provide support to families, children, young people, and schools through a work of scientific dissemination that can reach everyone, that is able to bring science into homes and in schools and offer practical applications to make us live long and healthy. The Foundation and Professor Longo, in collaboration with a team of expert pediatricians and nutritionists, have dedicated research, effort and a long time to the preparation of a theoretical and practical text for families and children and teenagers, "Longevity begins as a child" with also seasonal weekly menus, recipes, advice regarding the division of meals, the weekly frequencies between lunch and dinner, foods that are a source of vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients, as well as diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding. In addition, the Valter Longo Onlus Foundation enters schools of all grades with workshops, webinars, consultancy services for canteens, bars and vending machines to support the school world and offer a healthy environment. A concrete example is the ONE webinar series (Obesità + Overweight + Eating disorders /Nusage /EPhysical Exercise) for the 2022-2022 school year, inaugurated on November 16 with the webinar "Food is our ally", to accompany children and teachers of secondary schools on a path of health, physical exercise , balanced nutrition ".

The interviewee

Romina Inès Cervigni, Nutritionist biologist of the Valter Longo Onlus Foundation, she has a PhD at the Open University in the United Kingdom achieved by focusing her studies in the oncology field. You have also collaborated with the National Research Committee (CNR) of Madrid and with the VitaSalute San Raffaele University of our city, dealing with neurodegenerative diseases. Thanks to her studies in Nutrition and Dietetics, with a second level Master at the Polytechnic University of Marche, she integrates pharmacological therapies for various pathologies through food therapy. You have collaborated with the Valter Longo Onlus Foundation since its creation and assist patients with various pathologies from all over the world on a daily basis.

  • saturated fats
  • omega-3 fatty acids
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