The Low Down Dirty On Fats- Are There Any Benefits?

Many people see fats as a bad thing or something confusing. One person says you need a high fat diet, others tell you you need a low-fat diet. What’s the truth? Today we are going to talk about fats and why the body needs them. Then you will be able to make a more educated and informed decision for yourself.

Most people find very low-fat diets to be limiting, tasteless, and boring to stick to. Since fats slow down the digestion process, individuals who are stuck on these diets find themselves constantly fighting hunger pangs or eating too many calories for the diet to be effective.

Fats play a very important role in the body. A gram of fat provides the body with about 9 kilocalories. Let’s talk about some of the roles that fats play in the body.

The Benefits of Fats For The Body

Fats serve as storage for energy.

The body can only store very small amounts of glycogen which is to be used for energy. However, unlimited amounts of energy can be stored as fat tissue. This stored energy is used while sleeping, during times when energy intake is low, and during physical activity.

Fats provide essential fatty acids.

Fatty acids vary chemically according to their length of their carbon chains, the extent of saturation and the position of carbon-carbon double bonds. These critical differences give each fatty acid unique roles. The body is able to produce most of the fatty acids that it needs. However, there are 2 fatty acids the body is unable to make: Linoleic acid and alpha-linoleic acid. This means that these 2 acids must be obtained through your diet.

Fatty acids are important elements of cell membranes which are transformed to chemical regulators that affect inflammation, blood clotting, blood vessel dilation, and more. Although clinical deficiencies are rare, a deficiency of linoleic acid is typically observed in people with severe malabsorption problems.

Symptoms of severe malabsorption include poor growth in children, decreased immune function and a dry scaly rash. In the case of alpha-linoleic acid deficiency, the symptoms include visual problems, and nerve abnormalities.

Fats carry fat-soluble nutrients.

Dietary fats liquefy and carry fat-soluble nutrients such as some vitamins, carotenoids, alpha and beta carotene, and lycopene.

Fats add to the texture and flavor of foods. 

Fats helps to improve the taste of foods. This is because fats dissolve flavorful, volatile chemicals, they add a rich, creamy texture, and give food a satisfying mouth feel. Fats also add tenderness and moistness to baked goods.

Fats and oils (jointly called lipids) comprise mixtures of fatty acids. 

The recommended daily dietary allowance of fats for infants is 30 or 31 g. There is no recommendation for adults. The acceptable macronutrient distribution range for men and women aged 19 and older is 20-35%. The acceptable macronutrient distribution range for children varies according to age, but starts at 30-40% for children ages 1-3 and gradually approaches the acceptable macronutrient distribution range for adults.

Types of Fats

There are 3 types of fats: saturated fats, trans fats, and unsaturated fats.

Saturated fats: The body produces all of its needs with regards to saturated fats and as such, it’s not needed in your diet. Consuming lots of saturated fatty acids can contribute to high levels of low-density lipoprotein (also known as bad cholesterol) and reduce insulin sensitivity.

Trans fats: Both saturated and trans fats can be created by food manufacturers when they harden oil in a process called hydrogenation. This is usually done to lengthen the shelf life of crackers, chips, and cookies. Partial hydrogenation converts some unsaturated fatty acids to saturated ones. Trans fats are considered to be worse than saturated fats. This is because they not only contribute to insulin resistance and increased bad cholesterol, but they also lower high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or good cholesterol.

Unsaturated fats: This type of fat improves blood cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity when used as a substitute for saturated and transfats. The 2 types of unsaturated fats are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Sources of monounsaturated fats include nuts, avocados, canola oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, and olives.

Sources of polyunsaturated fats include walnuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, corn oil, salmon, herring, and albacore tuna.

There are 2 main types of polyunsaturated fats: Omega 3 fatty acids and Omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in walnuts, ground flaxseed, tofu, soybeans, canola oil, soybean oil, and walnut oil.  Omega 6 fatty acids can be found in sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, pecans, pine nuts, corn oil, and sesame oils.

 

I hope that clears up the debate on whether fats are good for you or not. Some fats are good for the body and others should be avoided. Try to avoid trans fats and reach for more monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats instead. Your body will thank you 🙂

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.