Facts on Fats

Facts on Fats


Nowadays everybody seems to be talking about Low fat diets .What is low fat? How much is low? Do we really require fat in the diet? What happens when one consumes a high fat diet? Are Fats good for us? Which type of fat is good? The questions are numerous. Here we shall understand what “fat” is all about.

One has to understand more about “Fats” before choosing fat to become fit

Fat is a dietary evil—everybody thinks so. Fat is a “lipid” in a general term to describe substance that usually cannot be dissolved in water but will dissolve in organic solvent. The term “triglyceride” is more specific and applies to fats & oils. A diet rich in high-fat foods results in more weight gain than a diet made up mainly of carbohydrates with some protein, and studies indicate that the body is also more efficient in storing fats than carbohydrates and protein.

How we use Fats:
Fat in our diet is needed. How much is the question? It is important to distinguish the fat consumed in foods-dietary fats- from fat circulating in the blood or stored as adipose tissue which is made up of cells specially adapted for that purpose. When our weight remains steady, it is because we are storing and using fat at equal rates. If our food intake exceeds our need for energy then no matter what the composition of the diet we synthesize more fat than we use and gain weight. The average woman’s body is about 20% -25 % fat by weight, the average man’s is 15%.

Most body cells have a limited capacity for fat storage. The fat cells (adipocytes) are exceptions they expand as more fat accumulates. Obese person’s fat cells may be 50-100 times larger than those of a thin person. Each individual has to know how much is good for him. This again depends on their present clinical condition, their activity, their dietary habits etc. A Diet counselor can guide him through proper channel.

Need of fats?
Fats add flavor and a smooth, pleasing texture to foods. Fats also stimulate the intestine to release cholecystokinin, a hormone that suppresses the appetite and signals us to stop eating. These are likely reasons that people who include a moderate amount of “healthy   fats” in their diets are more likely to stay on the diet and lose weight. Interestingly enough fat does not supply energy for the brain and nervous system, both of which rely on glucose for fuel. Finally fats are needed for the transport and absorption of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Our need for essential fatty acids is met by vegetable oils, which is later again converted in the body into another EFAs. This when consumed in moderation is right but nothing in excess.

Dietary intake:
Most experts now recommend that adults restrict their total fat intake to no more than 30% of each day’s calories. The types of fats we eat may be more important than the total amount of fat we eat Saturated fats generally come from animal sources-meat, poultry, eggs and dairy, the plant sources of saturated fats are coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil. A diet high in saturated fats can raise blood cholesterol levels and can trigger strokes or attacks. Unsaturated fats are of two types- Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated, where the former have been found to lower LDL cholesterol, mostly found in olive, canola and peanut including some nuts. Poly unsaturated fats are divided into two omega-3 & omega-6.while the former found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines, walnut, flaxseed and canola oils. These help prevent blood clotting. Omega-6 are found in foods that  come from plant sources include safflower, sunflower, corn oil, some nuts like almonds, brazil nuts.

Here are some of the 7 sources of good for-you-fats.
Olive oil, canola oil, Nuts, especially almonds and walnuts, Fatty fish, Seeds, like Avocados, Flaxseed oil.

There is another group of fats like Trans fats where a vegetable oil undergoes a process called hydrogenation. It is similar to saturated fats by raising LDL cholesterol levels. These are found in hydrogenated vegetable oils and some margarine. They are found in packaged foods such as crackers, cookies and commercially baked products. More research is needed before an increased intake is recommended. One has to understand more about “Fats” or take an expert’s advice before choosing “fat” to become fit.

Sanjana M Shenoy is a A dietitian from Mangalore, Karnataka, India. Having worked as a Dietitian for the Manipal Group of Hospitals namely KMC hospital Mangalore, India.She is also a consultant for corporate's like Infosys and others, conducting talks and presentations for various associations and local television shows.She consults at her Diet and Nutrition clinic "Nutrihealth" in Mangalore.Also is a visiting consultant to various hospitals in and around Mangalore and also runs an active online consultation.

One Reply to “Facts on Fats”

  1. Omega 3 fatty acids are the most beneficial oils a person can eat, either as supplements or from fish. I just can’t speak highly enough about them.

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