Till now we had a misconception regarding fat thinking it is the main culprit responsible for obesity and cardiovascular disorders. But this is not completely true, so its time to get rid of that old belief and start a new way of eating. Based on the heath benefits, fats can be classified into two: Good fats and Bad fats. God fats include unsaturated fats and essential fatty acids which are required for maintaining a good health. Bad fats are mostly saturated fats which when consumed in excess may cause some health problems.
Types of Fats
Fats which we eat are not all of the same type some of them are good for the health than the other. Thus the choice should be made carefully. The dietary fats can be broadly divided into the following types based on their health benefits:
- Unsaturated fats: Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are obtained from non-animal sources. They are also known as Good Fats and are of two major types
- Monounsaturated fats: These are liquid at room temperature but when refrigerated becomes less fluid. Mono unsaturated fats are found in olive, olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, hazel nuts, almonds, seeds like pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds etc.
- Polyunsaturated fats: Polyunsaturated fats remains liquid both on room temperature and when refrigerated. They are found abundantly in sun flower oil, safflower oil, soy bean oil, cotton seed oil, fish, corn, many nuts and seeds.
- Essential fats or Essential fatty acids: Essential fats are the fats which our body cannot synthesize and thus has to be supplied externally through diet. There are two types of essential fatty acids required for normal body functioning they are:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Food items rich in omega-3 fatty acids are flaxseeds, flax seed oil, soy bean, soy bean oil, pumpkin seeds, walnut, walnut oil, olive oil, rapeseed oil and fatty fishes like tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardine, herring, halibut etc.
- Omega-6 fatty acids: Food items rich in omega-6 fatty acids are wheat germ oil, walnut oil, safflower oil, olive oil, almond etc.
The omega-3 fatty acids and the omega-6 fatty acid should be taken in right proportion to maintain a good health. The omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio should be in the range 2:1 - 4:1.
- Saturated fats: These fats are solid at room temperature and found mostly in animal products like whole milk, butter, lard, ice creams, hard margarine, fats from beef, pork, lamb and plant products like palm oil and coconut. These saturated fats are considered as bad fats and their dietary intake should be limited. The animal products do not cause any health problems when lean, but when consumed without trimming away the fat may cause some health issues. Saturated fats may increase the risk for Coronary Heart Diseases as it increases the level of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood.
- Trans fats or Hydrogenated fats: Trans fats are prepared by heating vegetable oils in the presence of hydrogen. This is considered as unhealthy fat as it increases the risk for heart diseases by increasing the level of LDL or bad cholesterol and decreasing the level of HDL or good cholesterol in the blood. Food items rich in trans fat are candies, cookie, cakes, chocolate drinks, fried foods like pizza, French fries, chicken nuggets etc.
Benefits of Fats:
Following are some of the major functions of fat in our body:
- Fat provides energy. One gram of fat provides nine calories of energy
- It adds taste to the food.
- It helps in the transport of fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K through out the body.
- It helps in the formation of cells. Fats are the major component of cell membrane that surrounds the cell.
- It plays an important role in brain functioning. Its main component of brain cell membrane, it’s also one of the major component of myelin sheath of nerve fiber which in transmitting impulses for brain functioning.
- Fat helps in the normal functioning of Heart. Heart obtains most of its energy from burning fat. It also helps in maintaining cardiac rhythm.
- Fats help in the formation of hormones especially sex hormones.
- It plays an important role in maintaining a healthy skin. Fat deficiency may lead to dry skin.
- It helps in regulating the body temperature.
- Fat helps in the normal functioning of cells and organs of immune system.
- Fat provides cushion effect to the internal organs like kidney, heart, liver, intestine etc and also helps in holding them in place.
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) helps in reducing the risk of cancer especially colon and breast cancer.
- EFA helps in preventing mood swing and depression.
- EFA helps in lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- Fats help in milk production in lactating mothers.
Now we know about good fats and bad fats, let us stop considering fats as our enemies and start eating right fats in right proportion to maintain a good health.