Fat: 5 Interesting Facts You Need To Know
Fats are also called ‘fatty acids’ or ‘lipids.’ Fats in our body are made up of three molecules joined together. This three-molecule structure is called a “triglyceride”. Most of the fat we need is made by our bodies, but there are some fats our bodies cannot make. We can only get these fats by eating them. These fats are called “essential” fats because it is essential that we get them from food. Fats are an important part of the diet for humans and many other animals. The body stores fat for protection, warmth, and energy.
Regardless of the type, all fats have the same number of calories — 9 calories per gram, compared with less energy-dense carbohydrates and proteins, at about 4 calories per gram. Fat helps the body absorb vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E. These vitamins are fat-soluble, which means they can only be absorbed with the help of fats. Any fat that’s not used by your body’s cells or turned into energy is converted into body fat. Likewise, unused carbohydrates and proteins are also converted into body fat. There are three main types of fats found in food namely;
- Saturated fats
Saturated fats are found in animal-based foods like beef, pork, poultry, full-fat dairy products and eggs and tropical oils like coconut, and palm. Because they are typically solid at room temperature, they are sometimes called “solid fats.” Saturated fats can cause problems with your cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of kidney stones. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people eat no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day.
- Unsaturated fats
Health care professionals consider this to be “good fats.” There’s good evidence that replacing saturated fats with some unsaturated fats can help to lower your cholesterol level. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, and they mostly derived from plant oils. Its types are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
However, a diet with moderate-to-high amounts of monounsaturated fats can also help with weight loss, as long as you aren’t eating more calories than you’re burning. A couple of studies have shown that when calorie intake remained the same, diets high in MUFAs led to weight loss similar to that of a low-fat diet. Examples are nuts and avocados.
Polyunsaturated fats can also help lower the level of bad LDL cholesterol in your blood. There are two main types of polyunsaturated fats which are omega-3 and omega-6. Some types of omega-3 and omega-6 cannot be made by your body, which means it’s essential to include small amounts of them in your diet. They are found in salmon, corn or trout.
- Trans fats
The majority of trans fat in UK diets comes from natural sources in meat and milk. We know trans fats are harmful to health, but in the UK average consumption is already well within maximum recommended levels and is falling. This is thanks to the efforts of food manufacturers and retailers to remove artificial trans fats from their products.
The majority of processed foods in the UK no longer contain them. A recent Canadian study published in a British health journal highlighted the dangers of trans fats even in small quantities, but this is a far greater issue in the USA where trans fats are still used in a number of processed foods.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty, wax-like substance that your body needs to function properly. In and of itself, cholesterol isn’t bad. But when you get too much of it, it can have a negative impact on your health. As with dietary fat, there are good and bad types of cholesterol.
- HDL cholesterol is the “good” kind of cholesterol found in your blood.
- LDL cholesterol is the “bad” kind.
- The key is to keep LDL levels low and HDL high, which may protect against heart disease and stroke.
5 Facts you need to know about fat
- Fats are important in your body
We need certain polyunsaturated fatty acids, aptly named essential fatty acids (linoleic and linolenic acids), in our diet for healthy skin and hair. We get these from vegetable oils, nuts and oily fish. These also contribute to cardiovascular health as well as brain and visual function. Fat also provides insulation for body temperature regulation by filling up your body’s adipose tissue. And while fat is an important part of a healthy diet, it’s as important not to get too much as it is not to get too little.
- Eating the wrong kind of fat can lead to weight gain and high cholesterol.
Ultimately, it is the additional calories above what the body needs that will cause fat storage, rather than the macronutrient itself that’s to blame. Processed, refined, and fried foods are usually the ones that contain bad fat. These include trans fats and the inflammatory vegetable oil. Supplements can help reduce the fat, but you need to be cautious. Increased intake of these fats can make you gain weight and also result in an increase in inflammation.
- Stress can increase body fat
During periods of stress, the body releases more triglycerides into the bloodstream to be used for energy for the working muscles. However, if there is no significant physical activity to use that energy, those triglycerides will be returned to the adipose (fat) tissue for storage until they are needed.
- Your body gives you signs whether or not you are getting enough quality fat.
The higher-quality the fat, the better your body will function. That’s because the body uses the fat you eat to build cell walls. You have more than 10 trillion cells in your body, and every single one of them needs high-quality fat. How do you know if your cells are getting the fats they need? Your body sends signals when it’s not getting enough good fats. Warning signs include:
- Dry, itchy, scaling, or flaking skin
- Soft, cracked, or brittle nails
- Hard earwax
- Tiny bumps on the backs of your arms or torso
- Achy, stiff joints
- Fat may boost your metabolism.
Research has shown that transplanting fat taken from beneath the skin (subcutaneous) and placing it around internal organs can actually reduce the overall amount of fat in the body and balance glucose levels.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Fat is an important part of our diet, but it’s important to remember that not all fats are created equal. Choose foods with unsaturated fats more often and limit the amount of foods with saturated and trans fats.