Fat is an essential nutrient that our body needs to function properly. It provides energy and helps process certain vitamins and minerals. However, in recent decades, we have seen a surge in the availability of fat-free and low-fat food products in grocery stores. While this may seem like a good way to manage weight and improve health, it is important to note that many of these products contain added sugars and refined carbohydrates instead of fats. This can result in a significant increase in calorie intake with little to no nutritional value. So, it is crucial to make informed choices about the types of fats we consume and not eliminate them altogether.
Dietary Fats: Why You Need Them and Should You Avoid Them?
Fats are essential nutrients that our body needs to function properly. There are different types of fats, and it is important to understand their role in our diet.
Why We Need Fats in Our Diet
A small amount of fat is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. This is because fat is a source of essential fatty acids that our body cannot produce on its own.  These fatty acids are important for maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails, and for supporting brain and heart health.
Fats are also necessary for energy production and for supporting cell growth. They help protect our organs and keep our body warm.
How Unused Fats Are Stored
Any fat that is not used by our body’s cells or turned into energy is converted into body fat. The same goes for unused carbohydrates and proteins, which are also converted into body fat.
Benefits of Fats in Our Diet
Fats from our diet help our body absorb some nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E. They also play a role in producing important hormones that regulate our body’s functions, including growth and metabolism.
Should You Avoid Fats in Your Diet?
In short, no, you should not avoid fats in your diet. However, it is important to be mindful of the types of fats you are consuming. Saturated and trans fats should be limited in the diet, while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats should be consumed in moderation.
Eating a balanced diet with a variety of healthy fats can help support optimal cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. So, it is crucial to make informed choices about the types of fats we consume and not eliminate them altogether.
Understanding the Different Types of Dietary Fatty Acids
Fats are an essential part of a healthy diet, but not all fats are created equal. There are different types of fatty acids, each with its own unique properties and benefits for the body.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are found mainly in meat, butter, and dairy products. While science has no clear message regarding the health effects of saturated fats, it is recommended to keep their intake low by replacing them with unsaturated fats and unrefined carbohydrates.
Saturated fats are not always bad for you, and some sources may even offer health benefits. Two exceptional sources are coconut oil and grass-fed beef. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides that may aid in weight loss, while grass-fed beef is higher in precursors for vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a type of fat that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. However, it’s important to consume these sources in moderation and choose high-quality options for the most health benefits.
Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and come mainly from vegetables, nuts, and fish. There are two main types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats have one double bond in the fatty acid chain, with all of the remaining carbon atoms being single-bonded. These fats help protect our hearts by maintaining levels of good HDL cholesterol while reducing levels of bad LDL cholesterol. They are found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts.
Polyunsaturated fats are essential fatty acids that our body needs but cannot produce on its own. There are two main types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-6 fats are found in vegetable oils, while omega-3 fats are found mainly in oily fish, such as mackerel, herring, trout, sardines, and salmon. Walnuts and flax seeds contain a precursor omega-3, ALA, which can be converted by the body. A lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is more desirable in reducing the risk of many chronic diseases.
Hydrogenated oils, also called trans fats or margarine, are devoid of any nutritional value and pose a threat to one’s health. They are frequently present in fried foods, baked goods, and processed snacks. Consumption of trans fats can elevate cholesterol levels in the bloodstream and decrease good HDL cholesterol. Experts advise limiting the intake of these unhealthy fats as much as possible.
Supplementing with Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids are a healthy source of dietary fat that is essential to consume in our diet. Supplementing with omega-3 is useful, especially for those concerned with chronic pain, inflammatory conditions, depression, cardiovascular risk, concentration, and memory support. However, omega-3 supplements that include omega 6-7-9 are unnecessary, as our diet is abundant in omega-6, and our body can produce omega-7 and 9.
In conclusion, understanding the different types of dietary fatty acids and making informed choices about the types of fats we consume is crucial to maintaining optimal health. A balanced diet with a variety of healthy fats can help support optimal cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.