Often considered unhealthy, fats are an important aspect of essential nutrients just like vitamins, carbohydrates, and proteins. Dietary fats are important for several health-related aspects and in the optimal functioning of the human body.
They are not just a source of energy, they are the building blocks of the body that carry many fat soluble nutrients. It overall contributes to the growth and development of the body.
The Good Fat
Fat as the name suggests does produce an increasing amount of fat deposition in the body tissues if not consumed efficiently. There are certain essential fats required by the body in certain amounts, anything above that particular quantity or kind can result in deposition of adipose fat, high cholesterol, and many other diseases.
Fat supplies essential fatty acids to our body. These are referred to as EFAs in short. The human body as it is cannot produce EFAs known as linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids. Thus it is derived from the food we eat.
In addition to this, fat carries vitamins A, D, E, and K which are known as fat-soluble vitamins cross the body. It maintains healthy skin and plays an important role in promoting eyesight and brain development in babies and children.
The fact is, over-consumption of any type of nutrient, be it carbohydrates or proteins can result in the deposition of adipose tissue which is the actual fat that causes weight gain. The human body requires unsaturated fat rather than saturated fat as they are the essential ones.
The Bad Fat
Diets that are rich in saturated and trans fat can result in blood cholesterol contributing to clogged arteries that block the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart and brain. Hence when it comes to dietary fat, quality, and quantity count.
Saturated and Unsaturated Fat
Some animal products, like beef and dairy products, made with whole or reduced-fat milk like yogurt, ice cream, cheese, and butter have mostly saturated fatty acids. Other animal products, like pork, poultry, eggs, and seafood have mostly unsaturated fats.
Industrialized baked goods may use fats with high unsaturated fat contents as well, especially those containing partially hydrogenated oils, and processed foods that are deep-fried in hydrogenated oil are high in saturated fat content.
Plants and fish oil generally contain a higher proportion of unsaturated acids, although there are exceptions such as coconut oil and palm kernel oil. Foods containing unsaturated fats include avocado, nuts, olive oils, and vegetable oils such as canola. Replacing saturated fats with cis unsaturated fats in the diet can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Functions of Fats For Human Body
Fat plays multiple roles for a healthy body. Some of them include:
- Carrier of Vitamins and Cholesterol: The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are carried across the body by fat and support their absorption in the intestine. The required amount of cholesterol is essential for the body. Cholesterol is also a precursor of vitamin D, adrenal sex hormones, and bile salts. These together enhance the emulsification and absorption of fats in the intestine.
- Storing Energy: Excess energy from the food we consume is incorporated into adipose tissue or fatty tissue. It is provided by carbohydrates and fatty lipids. Fats pack together tightly without water and store far greater amounts of energy in a reduced space.
- Regulating and Signalling: Fats helps the body to produce and regulate hormones
- Contributes to the Smell, Taste, and Satiety of Food: Fats satisfy appetite (the desire to eat) because they add flavor to foods. Fat contains dissolved compounds that contribute to mouth-watering aromas and flavors. Fat also adds texture, making baked food moist and flakey, fried food crispy, and adding creaminess to items like ice cream and cream cheese.
- Insulating and Protecting: The average body fat for a man is 18% to 24% and for a woman is 25% to 31%, but adipose tissue can comprise a much larger percentage of body weight depending on the degree of obesity of the individual. Some of this fat is stored within the abdominal cavity, called visceral fat, and some are stored just underneath the skin, called subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat protects vital organs—such as the heart, kidneys, and liver. The blanket layer of subcutaneous fat insulates the body from extreme temperatures and helps keep the internal climate under control.