Fundamental of Fat: A Complete Guide

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What is Fat?

In simple terms, fats could be understood as a natural oily substance deposited as a layer under the skin or around certain organs of a living being. Fats are substances that our body stores for sometime later use as a source of energy. 

Fats are macronutrients that are required to generate energy in the body. Therefore dietary fats are important for cell growth and also generating energy which further will act as a catalyst for nutrient absorption and producing hormones.

What is the chemical composition of fats?

Fat molecules are the chemical composition of carbon and hydrogen atoms that are dissolvable in carbon-based solvents but insoluble in water.

What are the different types of fats?

There are different types of fats, some are healthy and necessary for the body, and some aren’t required. These are Saturated fats (poly and mono), unsaturated fats, and trans fats.

Although all these types have the same chemical composition of carbon and hydrogen bonding, what makes them different is the nature of the composition of the chain of carbon atoms bonded to the hydrogen. The length of the carbon chain also the number of hydrogen may differ. These structural differences lead to functional differences that is why some fats according to the kind of function they have on our body are good fats and some aren’t considered good for the body.

To understand which fats are suitable for our bodies and which are not, we can categorize them in different types.

  • Saturated Fats
  • Unsaturated Fats
  • Trans Fats

Saturated Fats:

The saturation of hydrogen molecules containing only single bonds between the carbon molecules. Saturated Fats are solid at room temperature. These are mostly found in animal products and also in tropical oils. Saturated Fats aren’t considered very well for the body. For example, Palm oil is tropical oil and though it is mostly used in all the snack items that we purchase from the market, it isn’t healthy for the body. Products such as milk, cheese, meat are examples of saturated fats which can also result in increased cholesterol and have a higher risk of heart diseases.

Unsaturated Fats: 

One or more than one double bond within the fatty acid chain describes what an unsaturated fat is in its chemical composition. One double bond in the fatty acid chain is understood as monounsaturated fat and similarly, a fatty acid chain containing more than one double bond is polyunsaturated fat. At room temperature, these are in liquid form. Unsaturated fats are considered healthier than saturated fats and they also decrease the risk of health disease. Products like olives, olive oil, peanut butter and oil, nuts and seeds, fish, avocados, are few of the examples of unsaturated fats. Overall, unsaturated fats benefit our bodies more.

Trans Fats:

These are converted fats. The process of hydrogenation is carried out to change the chemical composition of unsaturated fats, which results in Trans fats, also increasing its shelf life. Trans Fats are both natural as well as artificial forms.  Although edible, yet these aren’t considered very healthy for the body. Packaged foods, snacks are the result of Trans fats.

Why Is Fat Important for the Body?

Fat is an essential macronutrient along with carbohydrate and protein that is required by the body for its proper growth and development. Fats serve as structural components of our body cells. It provides insulation to the body and protects our organs. Fat provides energy to the body and also helps in the absorption of important vitamins (vitamin A, D, K, and E) and nutrients in the body. Our bodies release fatty acids to provide energy to the body. These fatty acids are released from the stored fat in the body tissues such as adipose tissue. Fats are also the reason for that glow on the face. Although protein diet will help you maintain a lean body, fat is also required to have a healthy blood flow leading to healthier and beautiful skin. They help the body have a better immune system. Therefore it can be understood that fats are important for our body for the following reasons:

  • Source of Energy
  • Important vitamin absorption
  • Sound Functioning of body
  • Maintaining healthy skin
  • Better blood flow
  • Better immunity
  • Serve as body fuel
  • Provides Insulation to the body

Why are Fats Avoided?

Fats are usually not considered healthy because excessive consumption often leads to weight gain and a higher level of cholesterol. But what we need to understand is that is the difference between good fat and bad fat. Consumption of good fat in the right amount is essential and useful for the body. We also need to understand consuming a lesser amount of fat than required for the body will lead to a weaker immunity and instability in the blood sugar. Fats consumed in the right quantity have protective benefits on our body.

Fat Quantity as Required

  • Monosaturated Fats: 15-20 %
  • Polysaturated Fats: 5-10 %
  • Saturated Fats: less than 10 %
  • Trans Fats: 0%
  • Cholesterol: Less than 30 grams per day

Monosaturated Fats are found in foods like olives, margarine and peanut oils, nuts and nut butter, avocados,

Polysaturated Fats are found in foods such as seafood, fish, soybean, cottonseeds, sunflower, and corn, nuts –walnuts, Brazil nuts, and seeds

Polysaturated Fats can be divided into omega3 and omega 6 which are responsible for healthy heart functions.

Omegas 3 are the types with the capability of protecting the heart and lowering inflammation in the body. It also supports the immune system. These also help in preventing and treating depression. It also Improves blood circulation.

  • Fat recommendations in your diet

Saturated fats found in chips, cakes, biscuits, processed food items should have limited intake because these are not very healthy. High-fat foods that are not considered very healthy should be replaced with good fats in limited quantities. High Fat intake is related to obesity, heart problems, and an increase in cholesterol levels. Items such as butter and creams can be replaced with healthy oils and other good fats. Salad dressings, Mayonnaise, Cheese should be avoided or have lesser intake. Items such as peanuts, pistachios, walnuts, almonds olives avocados could be consumed. We should keep knowledge of the foods that we are consuming, checking their nutritional value, choosing food with a lesser percentage of fats such as low fat. It is essential to choose the portion size, the amount of fat consumed per serving. 

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