Oils are entirely composed of fat, while other foods, such as processed foods, only contain trace amounts. Why is it that olive oil has a positive reputation but foods high in saturated fat have a bad one? Fat has a negative connotation. And with good reason: extra body fat around the abdomen, extremities, and organs may raise the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. This article discusses consumption, foods, and the appropriate quantity of fats in the diet.
However, let’s begin with a basic question: what is fat? Fats are the energy-storing molecules in the human body. 1 g of fat provides 9Kcal of energy. Along with protein and carbohydrates, dietary fat is one of the three macronutrients that constitute the bulk of human diets.
Dietary fats typically consist of a three-carbon backbone referred known as glycerol and one or more fatty acid chains, which are essentially carbon and hydrogen chains. Triglyceride is a lipid composed of three separate fatty acid chains. Monoglycerides and diglycerides are the names given to structures that consist of only one and two fatty acid chains, respectively.
Single or double bonds between carbon atoms classify fatty acid chains. When a fatty acid has just a single bond, it is referred to as a saturated fatty acid since it contains as many hydrogen atoms as possible. Triglycerides containing saturated fatty acids are elongated and so pack together very well; hence, they are often solid at room temperature. When a fatty acid has one or more double bonds, it is considered unsaturated since it is not saturated with hydrogen atoms.
Types of Fats.
These many fat classifications have their origins in chemistry, which can also be used to explain their effects. This portion examines the various types, their origins, and how they function in the human body. As it turns out, there are four basic types of dietary fats, and their healthiness falls somewhere along a continuum.
- Un- Saturated Fats.
Due to their carbon double bonding, unsaturated fats typically have a curved shape, comparable to how an arm flexes at the elbow. This implies that they cannot pack as firmly, and as a result, foods with a large concentration of unsaturated fats, such as cooking oils, are often liquid at room temperature. This is why olive oil is readily pourable at the same temperature at which a stick of butter, which has more saturated fat, requires a knife to be sliced.
Unsaturated fats may be broken down into two categories: polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) and monounsaturated fats (MUFAs).
- Monounsaturated: “Mono” refers to the fact that there is just one double bond of carbon in monounsaturated fatty acids. Most omega-3 fatty acids Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) may be found in both plant and animal sources. Avocados, olives, nuts, nut butters, seeds, and plant-based oils have the most MUFA (particularly olive and canola oils, but also safflower, sunflower, peanut, and sesame oils). Animal-based foods including meat, fish, and dairy products like yoghurt and milk include MUFAs.
Eating foods high in monounsaturated fat has been found to lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
Observational studies suggest that replacing saturated and trans-fat with MUFAs may improve cardiovascular health. Such effects lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, preserve HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and improve blood vessel function. In one research, substituting 5% of energy from saturated fat with MUFAs was linked with a 15% reduced risk of coronary heart disease, while in another, replacing saturated fat with MUFAs (mostly from plant sources) lowered CHD risk.
- Polyunsaturated: The term “essential fat” is used to describe polyunsaturated fats since the human body cannot produce them on its own. Flaxseed, chia seed, walnut, canola, and soybean oils are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. EPA and DHA, two essential omega-3 fatty acids, are abundant in cold-water fish (such salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel).
Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, has been related to the consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which are known to help lower blood pressure and total and LDL cholesterol. Plasma triglyceride levels are reduced thanks to EPA and DHA, which offer protection against cardiovascular disease. DHA is essential for the growth of newborn brains and eyes.
2. Saturated Fats.
It is well established that saturated fats are solids at room temperature. Saturated fats with longer fatty acid chains are more prone to crystallize at room temperature. Butter, coconut oil, full-fat dairy products, high-fat meats, and baked goods like pastries, cookies, and biscuits are all examples of foods that are rich in saturated fat.
The American Heart Association suggests that you consume no more than 6% of your calories from saturated fat. That’s only 13 grams of saturated fat (or 120 calories) for a typical 2,000-calorie diet.
Saturated fat’s effect on cardiovascular health is complicated. Due to its relationship with increased blood concentrations of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting the overall consumption of saturated fat to less than 10% of daily calories for persons age 2 and above.
The risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and other ailments is raised when LDL cholesterol levels are high. Saturated fatty acids have been linked to negative effects on cardiovascular health, however research shows that different forms of saturated fatty acids may have varying effects. It’s possible that the nutrients used to replace saturated fat in the diet will determine the health effects of doing so. Comparative studies have indicated that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat is beneficial for cardiovascular health, whereas replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated fat is not.
3. Trans Fat. The hydrogen atoms in unsaturated fatty acids known as trans fatty acids are located on the diagonally opposing sides of the double bond. Trans fats are normally solid at room temperature, like saturated fats, since the fatty acid chain is straighter in the trans shape.
This makes them the worst kind of fat you can consume. Numerous health issues have been linked to trans-fat consumption. The use of artificial trans fats has been related to a variety of negative health outcomes, including inflammation, stroke, cholesterol abnormalities, arterial dysfunction, insulin resistance, and abdominal obesity. (1)
Trans fat has been included on all US nutrition labels since 2006, but only if the food has more than 0.5 grams per serving; otherwise, the label must state that it has “0 g of trans fat.
What Fat Does to Body.
Opposite to what some people assume, both the assumption that fat is unhealthy and that fat causes obesity are widespread misunderstandings. In reality, your body needs fat to function. Numerous studies have demonstrated lots of advantages of consuming healthy fats.
- Better Hormones: Fat is employed in the production of hormones and enhances gene communication that controls hormone balance, making it vital for both men and women’s reproductive health. Eating too little fat is linked to infertility in women, while consuming the wrong fats might exacerbate symptoms of PMS and menopause. In men, lack of healthy fats impairs the production of testosterone and other androgen hormones, which are essential for their reproductive health.
Research indicated that lowering men’s fat intake by increasing their carbohydrate intake resulted in a substantial decrease in free testosterone. Total androgen hormone levels were reduced by 11%.
2. Optimal Cholesterol Levels: According to studies, omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish) and other healthy fats are excellent for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Consuming these fats may contribute to good cholesterol levels and heart health.
3. Better Body Composition: Consuming a higher proportion of calories from fat can assist in achieving healthy body composition. Your body needs a certain amount of fat to maintain a lean physique for the following reasons:
- When coupled with a sufficient amount of protein, fat can increase satiety and decrease appetite and cravings. According to research, medium chain fatty acids like coconut and red palm oil are the most satiating.
- The outermost layer of all bodily cells is composed of fat. This lipid layer should ideally be formed of omega-3 fats, since this makes the cells more insulin-sensitive, allowing for a robust metabolism and less inflammation.
- Consuming adequate levels of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids may facilitate weight reduction.
4. Optimize Brain Function: Your brain is mostly composed of cholesterol and fat. Features of the lipid layer of brain neurons affect electrical characteristics, which in turn regulate mood, neuromuscular function, and cognitive processes. Omega-3 fatty acids and other healthy fats are essential for brain development. There are other studies revealing their ability to promote neurodegenerative systems in the brain as well as their effect on mood.
5. Stronger Bones:
If you want strong bones, you need more than simply calcium. Healthy fats are needed for bone mineral density and osteoporosis prevention. A study conducted in Quebec, Canada confirmed a correlation between monounsaturated fat consumption and bone density. The findings indicate that consuming meals high in essential fatty acids might promote bone health.
6. Helps Sleeping: Almonds and other nuts are high in healthy fats and may improve your sleep quality. Some research suggests that getting enough of these healthy fats will help you get a better night’s rest. In fact, research has shown that kids whose parents regularly give them omega-3 supplements had fewer problems with their kids’ sleep.
7. Good Skin: You need a diet rich in healthy fats if you want to have healthy, beautiful skin. Essential fatty acids are necessary for healthy skin. This is because eicosanoids, which contribute to inflammation, are increased by omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats according to a study.
8. Strengthen Immune System: Healthy fats can help benefit inflammation pathways. The fatty acids lauric and myristic are present in saturated fats such as those found in butter, coconut oil, and red palm oil. They are anti-microbial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal, and have been shown to reduce infection rates by eliminating germs like candida yeast.
9. Reduce Cancer Risk: Eating “good” fats as part of a diet that gets the right number of macronutrients for managing blood sugar and reducing inflammation will lower the risk of cancer. According to research, omega-6-rich oils increase the spread and metastasis of cancer, whereas monounsaturated fats, such as those found in olives, have a preventive impact.
10. More Muscles: Yes, not only are proteins good for muscle building but also fat can help in making them stronger. Muscle building from training is aided by dietary fat because it aids in hormone balance and post-workout recovery.
11. Helps to Absorb Nutrients: In addition to fuel, fat aids in the digestion and assimilation of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, all of which play a role in muscle development and maintenance. We’ve previously discussed vitamins in an earlier article about all the nutrients that are required by the body for proper functioning. To know what benefits they can give, click here to read.
Dietary fat provides energy, promotes cell activity, and aids in the absorption of nutrients from vegetables, fruits, and other meals.
Recommended Intake of Fats.
Since our bodies only require a certain amount of fat per day, any fat taken in excess is stored as fat tissue and contributes to weight gain. So, it’s important to keep the intake of fat in a favorable and disease-free range.
To avoid unwanted weight gain, the WHO recommends:
- It is recommended that total fat consumption accounts for no more than 30 % of daily calories.
- There should be no more than 10% of daily calories coming from saturated fat.
- Less than 1 % of calories should come from trans fats.
Additionally, the American Heart Association suggests keeping saturated fat to less than 7% of daily calories.
The latest study on Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range for Fat from the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board recommends aiming for a total dietary fat intake as,
|Population||Dietary Fat Intake|
|Adults||20–35% of total calories according to BMI.|
|Children 4-18||25-35% of total calories according to BMI.|
|Children 1-3 ages||35%-40% of total calories according to BMI.|
Healthy Fats Foods.
We’ve compiled a list of 10 high-fat foods that fit nicely into a balanced diet.
|Healthy Foods||Number of fats/ ounces/ cups|
|2. Walnuts||21 grams/ounce|
|3. Almonds||15 grams/ounce|
|4. Olive oil||14 grams/ounce|
|5. Dark Chocolate||12 grams/ounce|
|6. Fatty Fish||10 grams/ounces|
|7. Chia seeds.||8.71grams/ounce|
|8. Full Fat Yogurt||8 grams/cup|
|9. Cheese||6 grams/ounce|
|10. Eggs||6 g / single egg|
|11. Olives||4 grams/ounce|
If you are interested to know how these foods can benefit our diets, then refer to this article here.
Which Type of Fat is Healthy?
What Makes Fat Healthy? The effect of consuming fat on health varies depending on the type of fat consumed. Dietary fatty acids are necessary for a number of reasons, including proper absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E. But according to researched data and dietary recommendations, this table can give an idea of which type of fats to consume.
|Saturated fat||Moderate uses only 7-10% of total fat recommendation.|
|Trans fat||Avoiding is beneficial, almost 1-3% of total recommendation.|
|Monounsaturated fat||Use according to dietary recommendations|
|Polyunsaturated fat||Use according to dietary recommendations|
Saturated fat and trans-fat are two forms of fat that may be bad for your health. Use of Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated fats is shown to be beneficial and most people are consuming these fats in a ratio of 15-17:1 to 1 as per researches. (1) (2)
It is not recommended to eliminate any nutrients; rather, make progressive attempts to switch from less healthy fats to more suitable ones. Instead of butter, cook using olive oil to ingest less saturated fat. Because milk with a higher fat content contains more saturated fats, select low-fat or fat-free milk. Avoid trans fats by avoiding foods with partially hydrogenated oils. Eat more fish and lean protein and incorporate vegetables, fruits, and whole grains into every meal to achieve a balanced diet.