Fats in Your Diet
Fats in your diet are a very important source of energy for your body. The fats in your diet are the most energy dense of the three macronutrients (Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fat). The fats in your diet play very important roles in: the manufacturing of hormones, the balance of those hormones, the formation of our brain and central nervous system, and the transportation of fat soluble vitamins throughout our body. The fat soluble vitamins include: A, D, E, and K.
Fats in your diet are also important because your body can not produce two essential fatty acids: 1) linoleic acid (which is an omega-6 fatty acid), and 2) linolenic acid (which is an omega-3 fatty acid). Both of these essential fatty acids are unsaturated fats.
The Composition of the Fats in Your Diet
I am sure that most of you have heard the term “triglycerides” but really do not know what it means. Scientifically the term triglycerides refers to the naturally occurring cell structure that is composed of a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fats. A triglyceride cells structure contains any three fatty acids attached to one glycerol. As you can see, there are many multiple different combinations that can be derived to make a triglyceride. This is important to understand because most of the fats in your diet are composed of a combination of saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fatty acids.
An easy method to determine if the fats in your diet are higher in saturated fatty acids are that the saturated fatty acids tend to stay solid at room temperature. While the fats in your diet that are composed mostly of unsaturated fatty acids tend to be liquid at room temperature.
The Fats in Your Diet Determine Your Health
Saturated Fatty Acids
The fats in your diet contribute to your overall health and wellbeing. If the fats in your diet tend to be mostly saturated fatty acids, this can lead to an increase in your cholesterol levels. Saturated fats can be found naturally in many foods. The majority of saturated fats in your diet are mostly from animal sources such as meats and dairy products. Some examples are saturated fatty acids are: beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, beef fat (tallow), lard and cream, butter, cheese and other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk. These foods also contain dietary cholesterol.
Although the majority of saturated fatty acids come from animal products, many baked goods and fried foods can contain high levels of saturated fats. Some plant foods, such as palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil, also contain primarily saturated fats, but do not contain cholesterol.
The health risks associated if the fats in your diet are primarily of the saturated kind are: Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke, prostate cancer, just to name a few. Be aware that there are some saturated fatty acids that may actually lower cholesterol. Steric acid which is found in beef and cocoa butter is such a fatty acid that may reduce LDL levels. So do not just rule out all saturated fats from your diet. Be smart about good nutrition and seek the advice of your doctor or a certified dietitian when making dietary health choices.
Unsaturated Fatty Acids
The fats in your diet that are considered the “healthy fats” are unsaturated types. Unsatr5uarted Fatty acids come in two types: 1) polyunsaturated, and 2) monounsaturated. Both types are predominantly found in plant products. Examples of polyunsaturated fat food sources include soybean, sunflower, fish and corn oils. Monounsaturated fat is found in high content in olive oil, peanut oil, and canola oil. And within these two types, the two that get most of the press are the polyunsaturated fats omega-3 and omega-6.
The health benefits of unsaturated fatty acids are: the positive effects they have on blood triglycerides, a reduction in the total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, overall blood vessel health, and overall metabolism health, just to name a few.
The Trans fats in your diet have also gotten a lot of media attention as of late. Research suggests that trans fats: increase the risk of heart disease, increase the risk of getting cancer, increase the risk of getting Alzheimer’s, increase the risk of getting lymphoma, just to name a few.
Interestingly, there are very few trans fats the occur naturally. It is a chemical process made by food manufactures that create trans fats. Their reasoning is that they make foods taste better and give the consumer a better mouth feel. Also interestingly enough, adding trans fats to foods gives them a longer shelf life. Take a guess at where the food manufacturers main concerns are: your health or the company’s bottom line?
The Final Word on Fats in Your Diet
Fats in your diet are critical for proper health and body function. It is important to keep a balance of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats as a good nutritional guideline. For the proper balance of the fats in your diet you should consult your physician or a certified nutritionist.