KNOW YOUR FATS: Types of dietary fats & why your body needs them

Whether you’re a conscious eater, one with a regular palette or a complete foodie, you would have checked the ‘fat’ percentage on your food labels at least once. The four most celebrated ingredients of any dish are Carbohydrates, Protein, Sugar and Fat. Yet, very little is known about the truth on Fats and their positive health benefits.

Yes, you read that right. Fats ARE good for you! And you don’t really have to eliminate fats completely from your healthy diet. Today, let’s burst the myths surrounding fats – know which are the healthy fats and, why your body needs them. So before you pick up or discard that one food item, based on the label, from your shopping cart, know the truth –

Why are fats good for the body?

It is a common notion that fats are directly linked to excess weight gain. Partially true but there are certain fats (dietary fats) that ARE needed by the body to perform regular functions and these do not lead to weight gain.Fats are one of the three macronutrients present in our food, in one form or another. Though negatively publicized, fats have important structural and metabolic functions in our body.

Dietary fats are an energy source and hence, the most efficient form of energy storage.Besides this, they protect our vital organs, help carry protein, and also help store a few essential nutrients needed by the body, skin and hair as well.

Why is it important to know fats?

There are Good fats (Unsaturated) and then there are Bad fats (Saturated & Trans), and it is easy to confuse these two. By default, every gram of fat has 9 calories so it is not the amount of calories that defines them.

  • The bad fats cause obesity, health issues, and increase Low Density Lipoprotein
    (LDL) in your body which is nothing but Bad Cholesterol. This causes the cholesterol to build up in your arteries and increase the risk of heart related diseases.
  • The good fats, on the other hand, increase High Density Lipoprotein (HDL). This carries the cholesterol back to your liver and the liver removes it from your body.

Types of Fats

Let’s delve deeper into these to understand their nature and their source –

1. Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs)-
Due to their single carbon-to-carbon double bond, the MUFAs are the ones that are
liquid at room temperature. These are ‘heart-healthy’ fats and are a good source of Vitamin E – an antioxidant. These are usually thought to reduce the risk of heart
disease. They also benefit insulin level and blood sugar control.

Present in: Avocado, Olives, Olive Oil, Peanut Butter, Almond Oil, Peanut oil,
Hazelnut, Pumpkin seeds, Cashews.

2. Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs)-

Polyunsaturated Fats have two or more double bonds in the carbon chain. Even these are liquid at room temperature and are the ones that are usually used in cooking. The two incredibly important types of PUFAs are – OMEGA 6 FATTY ACIDS and OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS. They are critical to build cell membranes, and are needed for blood clotting and muscle movement.

Present in: Sunflower Oil, Safflower Oil, Soya bean, Salmon, Trout, Catfish,
Mackerel, Flaxseeds, Walnuts.

3. Saturated fats – The word “Saturated” here refers to the number of hydrogen atoms surrounding each carbon atom. These are usually found in animal products and are not liquid at room temperature. Consuming saturated fats can drive up total cholesterol, and increase the more harmful LDL cholesterol.

Present in: Red meat, whole milk, cheese, coconut oil, whole-milk diary foods,
poultry skin, palm oil, coconut oil.

4. Trans fats – The worst kind of dietary fats are the trans fat. A by-product of a process called hydrogenation that is used to turn healthy oils into solids, trans fats have no known health benefits and there is no safe level of consumption. Natural trans fat are of no concern. It is the artificial trans fat that is plaguing the health. Trans fats create inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. They contribute to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Present in: Fried Fast Food, Frozen Food (Pizza), Microwave Popcorn, Margarine,
Doughnuts, Butter.

Now that you know your fats, be mindful about what goes in your food. Those labels would make more sense.Have something to share or any questions to be asked? Leave your thoughts in the comments section. I will be happy to help you with them.


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6 thoughts on “KNOW YOUR FATS: Types of dietary fats & why your body needs them

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