When the word fat pops up in conversation, it is often associated with cholesterol, poor health and a depressing number on the weighing scale. Sure, an excess of this nutrient can result in all of the above to a certain extent, but is it good to completely eliminate it from our diet? Let’s take a closer look.
Fats are one of the key nutrients our body requires for normal bodily functioning. The portion of fat intake recommended in the dietary food pyramid may be small, but there’s no denying that it is indeed a bodily requirement. Fats provide us with energy, insulation and ensure optimal reproductive and immune health. In fact, a good number of vitamins are fat-soluble only and need fat in order to be stored in our bodies. Fats also act as important messengers for proteins and control growth, hormonal and immune function. In short, this nutrient holds a pivotal role in the key functioning of our bodies and can’t be simply eliminated altogether from our diets.
But if that’s true, why do fats have such a notorious reputation?
Since fat is often assumed to contribute to dramatic weight gain, people looking to lose weight are likely to turn to low-fat food options. Such foods include cereals, beans, lentils, whole grain, nonfat dairy and cottage cheese, and many fruits and vegetables. The trend for adopting a low-fat diet rose in the past few years but now we know better – not all fats are bad.
The ‘Bad’ Fats
There’s not just one type of fat; broadly, fats can be subdivided into saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated and trans fats are two types of fats that you should be avoiding. If any type of fat causes cholesterol levels to rise and weight gain, it’s these two.
Saturated and trans fats increase the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in our bodies. LDL, aptly known as the ‘bad cholesterol’, increases the chances of heart disease, stroke, inflammation and other major health issues. Therefore, experts recommend that if saturated or trans fats are to be included in the diet – though unnecessary – they should be kept to less than 6% of your total calorie intake.
Foods rich in saturated fats include animal-based foods like meat, egg yolks, butter, cheese, and chicken as well as coconut oil, palm oil, and other tropical oils.
Trans fats are found in margarine sticks and vegetable shortening. Common foods loaded with trans fats include confectionery like cakes, cookies, candies, and fried foods like French fries.
The ‘Good’ Fats
Fortunately, there are good fat options available to consume and also replace the ‘bad’ fats. These fats are the unsaturated fats, and can further be classified as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Both of these fat types raise the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – also known as the ‘good cholesterol’ – in the body, that essentially reverses the harmful effects of LDL.
Vegetable oils such as olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, soybean, and sesame are all excellent sources of unsaturated fats. These foods also contain the essential omega-3 fatty acid that is proven to significantly improve cardiovascular health.
Unsaturated fats are thus important types of dietary fats that should be consumed on a daily basis. In fact they are often called essential fats because they are vital to our health and can only be obtained from dietary sources.
Does Fat Make You Fat?
Alas, the centuries-long debate. Some claim that dietary fats do indeed make you gain weight while others pin the blame on the carbohydrates in your diet. But who is actually right?
The truth is, neither of them is really wrong. In fact, recent studies illustrate that both a low-fat diet and low-carb diet shave off the extra kilos in almost the same proportion.
So what’s the take-home message? Dietary unsaturated fats are ideal for maintaining a healthy weight and it is, therefore, good to include lean meats, fish, and vegetable-based oils in your diet. In fact, your body needs it. On the other hand, consuming animal-based saturated fats can cause weight gain, along with other untoward health problems.
The recommended amount of dietary fat varies according to each individual. People who are more physically active will require a larger amount of fat in their diet. It is recommended that 20- 35% of your daily calorie intake be in the form of fat. What’s important to remember is that not all fats are created equal – unsaturated fats are the recommended dietary choice over saturated and trans fats.
Fat Consumption vs. Fat Gain: Are All Fats Created Equal? appeared first on BioMark.