What Are Fats?

Fat Can Be Good

Fats are also called lipids and are the most concentrated source of energy that we get in our diets. Yes, really! They have several other jobs as well. Not only do they provide energy but they are carriers for fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. But yes, of course there are some fatty acids that we have to look out for.

Types of Fats

Saturated fats are the ones that we need to watch out for. These fats are the ones that are a risk factor for heart disease. They are risk factor because they raise bad cholesterol levels (low-density lipoproteins; LDL). The unsaturated fatty acids help prevent heart disease and help with maintaining good cholesterol levels (high-density lipoproteins; HDL). Polyunsaturated fatty acids have more than one point of unsaturation. Polyunsaturated provide essential fats responsible for proper health and function that our bodies cannot make by itself. Monounsaturated fatty acids have one double bond in its carbon chain and also help with treatment or prevention of heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, and cancer. Trans-fats are also something to look out for. They are similar to saturated fats and increase LDL cholesterol while decreasing HDL cholesterol.

Monounsaturated Fats:

Olive oils, canola oils, peanut oil, avocados, peanuts, almonds, and pistachios

Polyunsaturated Fats:

Vegetable oils (safflower, soy, corn, and sunflower oils),Omega-3 fatty acids (herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and flax seeds), and most kinds of nuts and seeds

Saturated Fats:

Meat, poultry, lard, butter, cheese, cream, eggs, whole milk, tropical oils (coconut oil, palm, and palm kernel oil), and many baked goods

Trans-Fats

Stick margarine, shortening, fried foods, fast food, many baked goods and pastries

Yes Fat Can Be Useful

Just make sure to try your best and not intake too many saturated fats and trans-fats. Fats can have several beneficial functions for your body. Some of the functions that fats can be involved in are:

  • Cellular signals
  • Precursors to hormones
  • Cellular membrane structure and function
  • Regulation and excretion of nutrients in the cells
  • Surrounding, protecting, and holding in place organs (kidneys, heart, and liver)
  • Insulating the body and preserving body heat
  • Prolonging the digestive process by slowing the stomachs secretions of hydrochloric acid
  • Creating a longer lasting sensation of fullness after a meal (No one wants to feel hungry!)

We need to not stay away from fats completely. Fat is not a scary thing! Yes, sometimes fats are not very beneficial for us. But just make sure you are aware of the difference between unsaturated, saturated, and trans-fats. And that fats can be good for you!

Sources

Clark, M. (2012). Nutrition. In S. Luccett. & B. Sutton (Eds.) NASM Academy of Sports Medicine Essentials of Personal Fitness Training (pp. 453-457). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

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