Lipids aka “fats” have been demonized in the media and health circles for years. However, recent research studies have shown that fat intake is vital for healthy body function, and can decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions. Does this new body of research give you the license to go out and eat as many fried foods and fatty foods as you want? Not so fast. There are different types of fats, and knowing these differences can be the difference between good health and poor health. Here are five things you might not know about fat.
1 The body needs fat.
Fats or lipids are large nutrient molecules that serve several functions in the body including:
- Providing insulation to keep the body warm
- Adding cushioning for the bones and joints for protection against injury
- Acting as a source of energy for daily activities
2 Trans-fats are human-made with two exceptions.
Trans-fats are artificially created by the food industry to add flavor to foods, and to keep foods from spoiling. Processed foods like margarine, French fries, burgers, chips, and certain types of cookies contain trans-fats. Trans-fats can also be found naturally in small amounts in meat and dairy products.
3 Trans-fats are unhealthy.
The trans-fats found in processed food products are detrimental to human health and may cause numerous adverse health conditions including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
If you encounter food products, that mention the words “hydrogenation,” or “partial hydrogenation,” (code words used for trans-fats), you should avoid buying these food products.
4 Use saturated fats in moderation.
Saturated fats are lipids that are solid at room temperature. Examples include butter, animal fats (i.e., chicken skin and other meats), eggs, and coconut oil. Consumers have been told to stay away from these fats, but recent studies have shown these fats (as long as they are not the type found in fried, processed, or fast foods) may not be as unhealthy as previously thought. These fats are acceptable for use in moderation and are needed by the body for proper functioning including hormone production.
5 Unsaturated fats are healthy.
Unsaturated fats are lipids that are liquid at room temperature and fall into two major categories:
Monounsaturated fats which include olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil and many types of nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts, and pistachios to mention a few).
Polyunsaturated fats which include:
- Omega 6 fatty acids found in foods such as corn oil, soybean oil, and nuts such as walnuts.
- Omega 3 fatty acids found in foods such as flax seeds, salmon, sardines, and mackerel.
Omega 6 fatty acids and Omega 3 fatty acids, promote proper brain function, growth, and development.
Additionally, Omega 3 fatty acids can:
- Lower the risk of heart disease, as they decrease the likelihood of clots forming in the blood vessels, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
- Reduce the level of inflammation in the body which is a leading cause of chronic illness including cancer and arthritis.
Fats are needed by the body to maintain healthy functioning. Unsaturated fats, especially foods containing Omega 3 fatty acids, should make up the majority of your daily fat consumption due to their many health benefits.
Always Remember- Foods are like friends. Choose them wisely!
Sources of information for the article are below: 1 "Getting over the fat phobia." Harvard Health Letter. Dec2015, Vol. 41 Issue 2, p5-5. 1p. 2 Rodriguez, Melissa. "Dietary Fat and the Martial Arts Athlete.", Black Belt Oct/Nov2015, Vol. 53 Issue 6, p28 3 Fikes, Bradley J. "Lowering saturated fats doesn't cut heart disease risk, study finds" By: San Diego Union-Tribune, The (CA). 04/12/2016. 4 "You Are What You Eat, Hence Curtail Saturated and Trans Fats, Free Sugars and Salt." Manolis HOSPITAL CHRONICLES 2016, 11(2): 65–76