Fat – Basics You Need To Know

Fat?, “Low Fat” “High fat”, “Moderate fat” or “Nonfat”? What is your choice? Is it the best one?

When we hear the term “Fat” we get alarmed and it induces a worry over our health condition, even though it is a nutrient needed in our daily diet. Fat is a major macro-nutrient needed for the human body along with carbohydrates and proteins.

Why do we need Fat? 

  • Fat is a good source of energy. It gives nine calories from each gram of fat. Compared to other nutrients fats are very high in calories
  • Vitamin A, D, E and K can be only absorbed by the human body after dissolving in fat.
  • Essential fats like Omega 3 and Omega 6 cannot be produced inside the body. They must be taken from the diet or dietary supplements.
  • Allows to maintain body temperature, and protect our organs

Too much is not ideal…

Eating too many fatty foods may increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and other non-communicable diseases.

The daily recommended fat intake for adults is less than 7 tablespoons per day. Less than one-third of your total fat intake should come from saturated fatty acids. Trans fats should not be more than 2%of your total energy intake. Unsaturated fatty acids like omega 3 should make up the rest of your fat intake.

Types of fat

Fats come in different forms. There are two major forms of dietary fats in the foods we eat. They are Saturated fats and Unsaturated fats. They have different chemical structures and physical properties. Unfortunately, it is a tad tough to explain the types without getting a bit technical so here we go:

Saturated –

Saturated fats are composed of fatty acid chains with single bonds and they typically exist as solids in room temperature. It is best to avoid or at least cut down on this type because it can be bad. Higher amounts of saturated fats are found in many fast, processed, and baked foods like pizza, desserts, hamburgers, cookies, and pastries. Also, in dairy and certain plant oils like coconut oil. Saturated fats are heat stable.

Unsaturated –

Unsaturated fats have double or triple bonds between carbon molecules in the fatty acid chain and they usually exist as liquids in the room temperature. These are found in avocados and peanut butter, nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, and seeds, such as pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds. It is also found in plant oils, such as olive, peanut, safflower, sesame, and canola oils.

Fat - Basic Facts You Need To Know

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Unsaturated fats include omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. We find these types of Fats in plant-based oils like soybean, corn, safflower oils, and, are abundant in walnuts, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, and trout.

Trans fat – These are a form of unsaturated fats that are produced while processing. You will find these in margarine, snack food, baked foods, most fried fast foods and in doughnuts, cakes, biscuits.

The main issue of fatty food consumption is the influence of cholesterol profile in blood.  Saturated fatty acids may affect to raise Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) level, called bad cholesterol in the blood. LDL is responsible for the plaque formation inside arteries and induce the Coronary Heart Disease Risk.

In comparison, unsaturated fatty acids affect the rise of the other form of cholesterol called good cholesterol, High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) in blood. HDL acts as a picking agent of LDL and transport to the liver, where is broken down and discarded. Thus, lowering the bad cholesterol level in blood.

Tips to maintain a Fat Profile

  • The easiest, effective and economically friendly way is changing the dietary habits and cooking habits. It is better to start by removing fatty foods subsequently.
  • Always include nutrient-dense fresh vegetables and fruits instead of processed foods and deep-fried fatty foods.
  • Always use coconut oil in deep frying because it is heat liable and resistant to structural changes of the fatty acid profile. When cooking, use unsaturated fats like sunflower oil, palm oil and use olive oil in making salads. Try to avoid using oil in cooking whenever possible and do baking, boiling or steaming to retain the maximum amount of nutrients.
  • Manage your diet to keep your saturated fat level low (use non-fat dairy, skinless lean, etc)
  • Follow daily physical activity routine that helps to burn extra calories in the body (Minimum 20 minutes exercise per day, four days per week)

Incorporating fatty foods to the diet is an essential part, but just remember to choose foods with good fats and within a limit. Following a healthy diet plan means you are ready to feel the joy of a healthy life.

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Dewni Jayasuriya

Dewni Jayasuriya is a Nutritionist. She holds a Special degree, Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Nutrition from the Wayamba University of Sri Lanka. She is interested in dietary counseling, diet planning and is continually on the lookout for trends in modern Food Science and Technology.

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