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What are Healthy Fats?

By Sabina Rose
Food Pyramid -

Fat is one of the 6 essential nutrients. All fats, whether it is saturated or unsaturated, provides more than twice as much calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein. Fat is not only an important source of energy but has other functions as well. Fat is needed in the body’s cells, but also to absorb the fat soluble vitamins.

The problem is too much unhealthy fats

The problem is that excess fat/calories will be stored around the organs inside the body and as subcutaneous body fat. This is why we need to be careful with how much fat we eat, and more important, be aware of what kind of fat we eat in order to stay healthy.

What are Saturated and Unsaturated Fats?

The most common form of fat in diet is called triglyceride. A triglyceride is a chemical compound formed from one molecule of glycerol and three fatty acids. Depending on how they look, double or single, the fat is saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.

  • Saturated fats are found in dairy products, meat, processed meats, chocolate and cakes.
  • Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts and chicken.
  • Polyunsaturated fats are found in fish, shellfish and vegetable oils like corn oil and sunflower oil. Omega-3 and omega-6 are polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Unsaturated fats – Good for the heart

Unsaturated fats are healthier than saturated fat because they can affect blood lipids in a good way and are likely to reduce the risk of diseases of the heart and blood vessels. Rapeseed oil and olive oil or liquid margarine based on any of the oils, have a good balance between saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat and are therefore useful in cooking and baking.

Polyunsaturated fats – Must be supplied by food

Alpha-linolenic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid, and Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid.

The body can not produce the two fatty acids: omega-3 and omega-6 and must be supplied by food. Other fatty acids that your body needs, it can produce itself.

Health effects of omega-3

Omega-3 fats have been shown to have many health benefits. Among other things, it can help to lower blood fats and blood pressure. To gain the health benefits, eat omega-3 fatty rich foods at least two or three times a week. The best omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and shellfish.

Omega-3 fatty acids from the plant kingdom must first be converted in the body before they can be used in the same way as the omega-3 fats from fish. Therefore you need to eat more in order to get enough omega-3. Omega-3 sources from plants include canola oil, soybean oil, flaxseed oil and nuts, particularly walnuts.

Focus on the fat quality (healthy fats)

There are different opinions on how much fat and carbs you really should eat. USDA dietary advice is in line with the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in vegetables, fruits and fats from olive oil, fish and nuts. Researchers suggest that we should pay more attention to what kind of fat we eat instead of worrying too much about how much fat we eat.  In other words, focus more on the fat quality instead of the fat quantity.

 

 

 

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