Know Dietary Fats for Health

There is wonderful quote by hippocrates, “Everything in excess is opposed to nature”.  In regard to dietary fats some are better for health than others but everything in diet should be taken in moderation. One should know dietary fats for health and read the nutrition label on the food products and choose healthy fats over unhealthy when making a selection.

What is fat ?

Dietary fat is a macronutrient that provides energy for your body. Fat is essential to your health because it supports a number of your body’s functions. Some vitamins and nutrients, for instance, must have fat to dissolve and nourish your body. But they also comes with a lot of calories hence excess of them can lead into over weight and obesity.

dietary fats

Harmful Dietary Fat: Saturated and Trans Fats

Saturated fats and trans fats share a physical trait of being solid at room temperature. Exception: Whole milk, Coconut oil, Cream etc.

1). Saturated fat.

  • This is a type of fat that comes mainly from animal sources of food, such as red meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products.
  • Exception:  Some vegetable oils, such as palm oil and coconut oil, contain saturated fat.
  • Saturated fat raises total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, which is destructive type and can promotes the formation of blockages in the coronary arteries, the hallmark of heart disease. Saturated fat may also increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Exception: There are about 24 different saturated fats. Not all of them are equally bad for your health, the saturated fat called stearic acid, found in pure chocolate, is more like unsaturated fat in that it lowers LDL levels. 

2). Trans fat (partially hydrogenated oils):

  • We commonly, know them as solid vegetable fats such as margarine (A spread made chiefly from vegetable oils and used as a cheap substitute for butter). but trans fats are found not only in solid foods such as these, but also in foods that contain “partially hydrogenated oil.”
  • Trans fats are made from oils artificially in lab through a food processing method called partial hydrogenation.By being partially hydrogenating oils, they become easier to cook with and less likely to spoil than do naturally occurring oils.
  • Research studies show that these partially hydrogenated trans fats can increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol and lower healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. They are even worse than saturated fats and can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • These fats occur naturally in meat, but their main dietary source is packaged baked products such as cookies, cakes, breads, and crackers, as well as fast foods and some dairy products.

Good or Healthy Dietary Fats: Unsaturated fats

Good fats come mainly from vegetable and fish products. They are liquid, not solid. This beneficial Unsaturated fat can be divided into two broad categories namely, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.

1). Monounsaturated fat.

  • This is a type of fat found in a variety of foods and oils. Good sources of monounsaturated fats are olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, and most nuts.
  • Studies show that eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. Research also shows that MUFAs may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.

2). Polyunsaturated fat.

  • This is a type of fat found mostly in plant-based foods and oils. Evidence shows that eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. PUFAs may also help decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • They are also required for normal body functions, but your body can’t manufacture them and so must get them from food. Polyunsaturated fats help build cell membranes, the exterior casing of each cell, and the sheaths surrounding nerves. They’re vital to blood clotting, muscle contraction and relaxation, and inflammation.
  • It is of two types, omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids and omega-6 (n-6) fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids.

  • One type of polyunsaturated fat is made up of mainly omega-3 fatty acids and may be especially beneficial to your heart. It help prevent and even treat heart disease and stroke.
  • Evidence also suggests they have similar benefits against autoimmune diseases such as lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Omega-3s come mainly from fish, but also from flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil, and unhydrogenated soybean oil. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring are especially good sources of omega-3s.

Omega-6 fatty acids:

It also lower the risk for heart disease. High levels of linoleic acid, an omega-6, are in such vegetable oils as safflower, soybean, sunflower, walnut, and corn oils.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

  1. Although unsaturated fats are conventionally regarded as ‘healthier’ than saturated fats,  the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendation stated that the amount of unsaturated fat consumed should not exceed 30% of one’s daily caloric intake.
  2. Most foods contain both unsaturated and  saturated. Marketers advertise only one or the other, depending on which one makes up the majority. Thus, various unsaturated fat vegetable oils, such as olive oils, also contain saturated fat.
  3. Everything in moderation is good and its good to keep on switching between healthy vegetable oils so as to have benefits of all and eliminating excess of any

References and Further reading:

  1. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/dietaryfats.html
  2. http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/fat/index.html?s_cid=tw_ob294
  3. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/
  4. http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/healthy-eating/Pages/Healthyeating.aspx
  5. http://www.nutrition.gov/smart-nutrition-101/healthy-eating
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Healthtard

Healthtard

Pradeep completed his Masters in Clinical Engineering from IIT Madras and he likes to share the care! To know about him and his projects click here!

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  1. December 4, 2014

    […] unhealthy fats in […]

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