It is a general perception that Dietary fats are bad for health, but in fact, dietary fat is a very important nutrient, which is essential for the proper functioning of the body.
Dietary Fats are Essential for
- Energy and metabolism
- To keep body temperature under control
- Insulation of vital organs
- Absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Some fats are good and some fats are bad for health. Trans and Saturated Fats are considered harmful to health whereas unsaturated fats such as Monounsaturated Fats and polyunsaturated Fats are considered Good for Health. Let us understand this in detail.
Structure of Saturated Fat and Unsaturated Fat
Saturated Fat: Saturated fats are nothing but some fat molecules that have no double bonds between their carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules. If told in easy language, saturated fat is usually solid at room temperature.
Unsaturated Fats: Unsaturated fat on the other hand consists of one or more than one double or triple bonds between carbon molecules. These are liquid at room temperature in the form of oil. They are also found in solid food items.
Unsaturated fats are further broken into two categories, which are called monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats have one double bond between carbon molecules.
Polyunsaturated fats have more than one double bond between carbon molecules.
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Saturated Fat and Unsaturated Fat – Effects on Health
The consensus among most dieticians, nutritionists, and other diet experts across the world is that saturated fats are more harmful than unsaturated fats.
Effects of Saturated Fats
A diet high in saturated fat increases low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or bad cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
However, not all saturated fats are bad e.g. coconut oil contains some saturated fats, which are really good and important for health.
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Effects of Unsaturated fats.
Including Unsaturated fat in your diet have many health benefits such as it helps in weight loss, increases insulin sensitivity, decreases the risk of heart disease and cancer, good for brain development, and reduces inflammatory chemicals in the blood.
Saturated and Unsaturated Fats – Sources
Saturated Fats are found in the following food items
Foods such as cream, dried coconut, fatty meats, processed meats, desserts, oils, cheese, milk, butter, chocolate are high in saturated fats.
Saturated fats content in processed food or food items made in the factory are very high and are more harmful s compared to the saturated fats found in natural foods.
For complete and balanced nutrition one should eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low or zero fat dairy products, lean poultry, fish, and nuts regularly and reduce the intake of red meat and foods and drinks high in sugar.
You should increase the intake of foods high monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated fats in your diet, these are considered good fats which we get from foods like fish and nuts.
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Unsaturated Fats are found in the following food items
Avocado and Avocado Oil, Olives and olive oil, Peanut butter and Peanut oil, Vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn, and canola, Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, nuts and seeds, such as peanuts, cashews, almonds, and sesame seeds
How much Saturated & Unsaturated Fats we should consume in a day
As we all know that we get 9 calories from 1 gram of dietary fat. There are different views on what is the right quantity of fats to be consumed in a day. It largely depends on your age, gender, profession, and fitness goal.
But, it is usually recommended that we should eat 20 to 35 percent of our daily calories should come from fat, in which saturated fat should be below 10 percent.
I believe that we must eat at least 20 percent fat every day, which is very important for the functioning of our body.
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Some important tips for eating a healthy diet (Fats).
- Instead of whole milk, use low-fat milk or cow milk.
- Use lean meats while eating
- Be cautious of food items that claim to be low fat or zero fat. Many of these food items contain sugar and refined carbohydrates instead of fats. This increases our calories but we do not get any nutrition
- The intake of processed food items should be limited, as they contain more Trans fats and sodium.
- Bake, steam, and grill your food instead of deep-frying them.