There are three macro-nutrients that our body needs to function. Can you guess what they are? If you said carbohydrates, protein, and fat (YES I said FAT) then you were right! The body needs carbohydrates because they provide the main energy source for the body. Proteins are essential for growth and repairs of cells. Fats are a part of cell membranes and are vital for the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat also serves as an energy source and protects our organs. There is more functions of fats but these are some of the main ones.
So why if fat is essential in our diet do we see manufactures label their products as “Low Fat” or “Fat Free?” Well you see, there are fats that help our health and fats that can harm our health if consumed in excess. To better understand these fats, you need to know there are different types of fat:
- Saturated Fat=The fatty acids have no double bonds between the carbon molecules and are saturated on the sides with hydrogen bonds
- Trans Fat= The fatty acids contain a double bond but the molecule has been modified to appear like a saturated fat to help with shelf stabilization.
- Monounsaturated Fat=The fatty acid contains one double bond
- Polyunsaturated Fat=The fatty acids contains more than one double bond
Now that you have your mini chemistry lesson in for the day, let’s talk about what effect these fats have on our body.
Saturated and Trans fats can raise your blood lipid levels and can have negative effects on your heart health. When consumed in excess these fats can build up in your arteries and make it harder for blood to flow through properly. Saturated fats come from a variety of foods but you will primarily find them naturally occurring in meat and dairy products. They can also be found in palm oil and coconut oil. These fats are solid at room temperature. Trans fats are found in processed foods and are used to increase shelf life. These are not recognized as safe by the FDA and manufactures are removing them from their products.
Monounsaturated fats can help reduce your risk for heart disease and help lower your blood cholesterol levels. You can find monounsaturated fats in olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, and sesame oil.
Polyunsaturated fats can also help reduce your risk for heart disease and help lower your blood cholesterol levels. These fats also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which are essential for use to get in our diet because our body cannot produce these fatty acids which aid in important functions of the body. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, nuts, seeds, tofu, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout.
Try to incorporate more mono and polyunsaturated fats into your diet and less saturated and Trans fats. Making small changes in fat choices can have a positive impact on your health.