Fats or lipids have been much reviled especially in modern times of social media and body shaming. People have been randomly shunning fat-laden items from their diets to acquire that elusive “shape” while sweating away in gyms. Is this wise and how does this impact the body biochemistry in the long run? Before we go further a brief, basic understanding of fats, its types and categories would be in place.
What are Fats?
Just as carbs are a chain of saccharides, proteins are a chain of amino acids, fats are a linkage of fatty acids.
Types of Fat: –
The two basic fat types are: –
– Saturated fats
– Unsaturated fats
The former area tightly packed linkage of fatty acids and with a few exceptions, most saturated fats are solids at room temperature. It is proven that saturated fats raise blood lipids including the LDL cholesterol thereby contributing to heart disease risk factors and type 2 diabetes. Food items such as fatty pieces of meat, dairy fats like cream, cheese and whole milk, coconut and pam oils are a few examples.
Unsaturated fats are loosely packed and tend to be liquid at room temperature. They are of two types:-
– Mono unsaturated (MUFA)
– Poly unsaturated (PUFA).
Consumption of plant based MUFA helps lower risk of cardiovascular disease and increases mortality. Foods such as nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocados are a few examples.
PUFA are essential for muscle movement and blood clotting and the body does not make them. They need to be got through diet.
PUFA are of two types :-
– Omega 3
– Omega 6.
Omega 3 can be found in hemp, chia and sunflower seeds, walnuts, oysters and fatty fish. Omega 6 is found in canola, sunflower, soybean and walnut oils.
Then there is the third type, or Trans fats which is actually a type of Unsaturated fat. Trans fats are of two types: –
The former are found in a few animal products and are not considered harmful. The latter also known as hydrogenated oils are to be avoided like the plague.
So, just as there are preferable carbs or sugars, there are superior and inferior proteins there are good and bad fats. However, as a macronutrient the importance fats cannot be under played. Some important roles of fats in the body are absorption of vitamins (A,D,E & K), energy source, organ protection and cell growth. Cholesterol plays a critical role in the brain chemistry and Central Nervous System. Attempts to completely cut out fats from the diet can have a deleterious impact on the body.
As it is with any nutrient, excess and / or consumption of a less preferred form can have less than desired or even an adverse effect, fats too, if chosen well and consumed in adequate amount contribute immensely to good health.