L is for Lipids

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Randi Karlinsky MS, RDN, LDN, CHC

We typically associate lipids with our blood cholesterol levels however, they serve many other important purposes in our body. Lipids are fatty, wax-like organic compounds and are insoluble in water. They can originate from plants, animals, or even be created synthetically. We categorize lipids into three groups; triglycerides, steroids, and phospholipids.

Triglycerides are lipids we obtain through fat sources of food such as oils, butters, and the fat in animals. Although we typically associate these as “bad” or unhealthy, we do need some to keep our body healthy. A benefit of triglycerides is that they provide us with insulation for both warmth and the protection of our internal organs. On the downside, if we consume too many calories than we burn off during the day, both fat & other calories, our storage levels of triglycerides could elevate to unhealthy levels.

Steroids are lipids in the form of hormones and cholesterol. The cholesterol our bodies both produce and consume through food play an important role in the production of hormones. Examples of these hormones produced include estrogen, progesterone, adrenaline, cortisol, and testosterone.

Phospholipids are similar to triglycerides, but vary in their water-solubility. Specifically, phospholipids are half water-soluble compared to triglycerides which are not water-soluble at all. As a result, they are a large component of our cell membranes providing protection to our cells.

Healthy Lipid sources:

  • Plant oils such as olive oil, vegetable oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, safflower oil
  • Avocados
  • Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cashews

Sources to enjoy in moderation:

  • Coconut oil
  • Palm oil
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Animal fat