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What are Fats?

According to nutrition facts, fats are an essential part of the diet and play an important role in maintaining a healthy life.

Fats and cholesterol tend to be the most focused terms of the public and health enthusiasts. There is a valid reason behind this. Fat happens to be the most concentrated source of energy in the diet that providing about 8 to 9 calories per gram, while on the other hand,\\ carbohydrates and proteins have only four calories per gram. Fat is known to have three elements which include carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. But, it has more carbon and hydrogen than oxygen, leading to nine calories per gram. Fats are the source of energy in food, belong to a group of elements called lipids, and they are all combinations of saturated and unsaturated fats.


Fat containing food items

The human body is well designed, which makes up two types of fats, essential for the proper functioning of the body and are obtained from the food consumed. These fats play a major role in controlling inflammation, blood coagulation, and brain development. It also serves as a storage unit for storing the body’s extra calories in fat cells or adipose tissue that helps to insulate the body. They tend to be an important source of energy. Fats also help the body absorb and transport the vitamins A, D, E, and K through the bloodstream.

Also check: Lipogenesis

Types of Fats

There are four different types of fats:

  • Saturated Fat

It is responsible for bad cholesterol. They are found in most animal products like cheese, milk, meat and so on and hence one must limit the quantity of intake. Unsaturated fat, on the other hand, is the substance that should be used in place of saturated fats to lower cholesterol levels. Trans fatty acids that one gets from vegetable oils also play a role in increasing cholesterol levels. Consuming saturated fat in large quantities is the most popular reason for heart disease as it causes cholesterol to block the arteries.

  • Monounsaturated fats

Monounsaturated fats are healthy fats found in Avocados, Macadamia nuts, Peanuts, Olives and Olive oil. It plays a vital role in protecting the heart and is also involved in supporting insulin sensitivity, fat storage, weight loss, and healthy energy levels.

  • Trans Fats

Trans fats are also called unsaturated fatty acids or trans fatty acids. These fats are naturally obtained in several foods such as beef, lamb, whole milk, cheese, cream, and butter from cattle. Conjugated linoleic acid is a natural trans fatty acid which is beneficial in strengthening the immune system and inhibiting the development of cancer. However, most trans fatty acids are made when manufacturers convert liquid oils into solid fats. In the application of hydrogenation, vegetable oils are hydrogenated to produce vegetable shortening, margarine, peanut butter, and other products used for salad dressing. Trans fats are present in many processed foods such as baked food items, cookies, crackers, snack foods, deep-fried foods and other food made or fried in partially hydrogenated oils.

  • Polyunsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats are healthy fats, which are abundantly found in both plant and animal foods, such as vegetable oils, Walnuts, Flax seeds, salmon, etc. These fats include both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats. Omega 3 helps reduce inflammation and supports healthy hormone levels and cell membranes. Omega 6 fatty acids play an important role in supporting healthy brain and muscle functioning.

We need a small amount of omega-6 fatty acids in our diet. Corn, soybean, safflower, cottonseed, grapeseed and sunflower oils are all high in omega 6’s. Apart from these, omega-6 fatty acids are also found in most baked goods like bread and bakery snacks and packaged foods like cookies, crackers, chips, and french fries, which are not stable.

Essential Fatty Acids

Our body is capable of synthesizing most fatty acids, apart from these three essential fatty acids: Linoleic acid, Linolenic acid, and Arachidonic Acid. These designated essential fatty acids must be supplied through the diet. The deficiency symptoms of these fatty acids include poor growth, and skin irritation and have been seen in infants fed with the formula lacking these essential nutrients.

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