Fat is necessary. It acts as a nutrient to maintain normal body functions. It is an energy source, used in production of membranes and also hormonal compositions that help regulate blood pressure, heart rate, blood vessel constriction, blood clotting and the nervous system. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble and can only be digested, absorbed, and transported in conjunction with fats. Other contributions include keeping the hair and skin healthy and insulating the organs against shock.
Fat also serves as a useful intermediary towards a host of diseases. When a particular substance, whether chemical or biotic, reaches unsafe levels in the bloodstream, the body can effectively dilute the offending substances by storing it in new fat tissue. This helps to protect vital organs, until such time as the offending substances can be metabolized and removed from the body by means of excretion, urination, accidental or intentional bloodletting, sebum excretion or hair growth.
An average human body needs at most 1 tablespoon, about 15g, of fat a day. An average American takes in 5 tablespoons, which is of course too much. It will lead to weight gain, obesity and eventually a host of diseases. Here are 9 examples of the types of diseases caused by obesity. However, it is also important to identify the types of fat that are found in food. Some are good, some are bad. Below are the explanation for the 6 types of fat found normally in food.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
A type of polyunsaturated fat that does not raise cholesterol levels and is most beneficial to the human body. Benefits of omega-3 fatty acids include :
- reducing the risk of coronary heart diseases
- aiding in mental disorders like aggression and ADHD
- decreasing the thickness of the carotid arteries
- improving in blood flow in patients with unhealthy blood sugar levels
- helping lower blood pressure
- protecting the heart against irregular heartbeats
The ideal daily dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids should not exceed 1 tablespoon, about 5g. To be more exact, less than 3g from fish and less than 2g from nutritional supplements. The list of sources high in omega-3 are :
- wild salmon
- flax (6 times richer than fish)
Omega-6 fatty acids, another type of polyunsaturated fat, have been shown to be beneficial in the reduction of cholesterol levels when they are substituted for saturated fats in a person’s diet. The benefit in consuming omega-6 fatty acids therefore lies in the fact that they reduce the incidence of coronary artery disease, which is a condition where excess cholesterol builds up on the arteries of the heart, eventually blocking the flow of blood and causing a heart attack.
The optimum omega-6 intake should be at most 4 times the amount of omega-3 taken, to avoid the probability of side effects such as depression and diseases. Sources rich in omega-6 include:
- Cottonseed oil, most vegetable oils actually
- Whole grain breads
- Eggs and poultry
- Baked goods
Olive oil, consumed widely in Mediterranean countries, is one of the reasons why these countries have lower levels of heart diseases. The reason lies in its ability to lower cholesterol and assist in reducing heart diseases. Monounsaturated fat keeps skin healthy and helps in developing body cells. Vitamin E is a type of fat soluble antioxidant found a lot in monounsaturated fat.
Sources rich in monounsaturated fats include :
- Canola oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Ground nut oil
- Olive oil
- Nuts like almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios
- Safflower oil
- Sesame oil
- Sunflower oil
- Tea-oil Camellia
Raises LDL cholesterol levels, increases risk of heart disease, and may increase risk of colon and prostate cancer. Foods with 1g or less saturated fat per serving are considered low in saturated fat. Examples of food high in saturated fat include :
- Coconut oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Palm kernel oil
- Dairy products, especially cream and cheese
Trans fat is not required by our body plus it is not healthy. Essentially, a trans fatty acid is an unsaturated fat turned into a saturated fat. Trans fat is evil as it increases the risk of coronary heart diseases, raises LDL cholesterol levels, lowers HDL levels and may increase risk of breast cancer, diabetes and infertility.
Trans fat can be found a lot in :
- Processed foods; snacks, crackers and chips done using hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil
- Baked goods; muffins, cookies and cakes done using hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil
- Stick margarines
- Fast food items like french fries
A human body is designed to naturally construct all of the cholesterol it needs, but cholesterol is also found in meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter.
There are 2 types of cholesterol, namely :
- LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein)
- HDL (High Density Lipoprotein)
BAD because they keep cholesterol circulating in the blood, causing the arteries to become clogged with deposits.
GOOD because they move cholesterol away from artery walls and back to the liver.