Culinary Facts on Fats
Many people would be surprised to discover that some types of fats are actually a nutrient and are good for the body. Referred to as lipids, fats can be either solid or liquid depending on the type. They are compounds that are made up of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen, and are found in animal tissue and plants. On their own, fats are not bad for the body, in fact they are necessary. There are, however, problems with certain kinds of fat. When a person eats too much of the wrong types of fat they can develop health problems such as increased cholesterol, type II diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. Understanding fat will help people understand how it can be both beneficial and problematic. As a result, it will also help people to make healthier choices in their food choices.
Fats are a necessary nutrient that the body needs. It is crucial in helping the body function as it should. One of the reasons why fats are important is that they are an efficient source of energy for body. It also helps the body absorb important vitamins, such as Vitamins A, D, and E. Fats are important for brain function and healthy cells. Organs in the body are protected by fat, which acts as a protective cushion. Skin also benefits from fat which gives it a healthier appearance and helps it to better insulate the body.
When discussing fats, there are different types to be aware of. This includes the fat that the human body makes as a result of consuming too many calories and dietary fats. Dietary fats may be broken down into two groups – fats that are harmful and fats that are healthy. There are two types of harmful fats, which are saturated fats and trans fats. Both come from animal-based foods and are often solids. With saturated fats, there is the increased risk of elevated blood and LDL cholesterol levels. While it raises what is called your bad cholesterol levels, it lowers your “good” cholesterol levels. Consumption of saturated fats may lead to type II diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Unlike saturated fats, a majority of trans fats are created. This is done during a process that makes liquid oils more solid by adding hydrogen. This type of fat may elevate a person’s risk of heart disease. Trans fats are often labeled as partially hydrogenated oils. Fried foods are an example of trans fats and also saturated fats. Butter, fatty beef, whole milk, and pork also contain saturated fats.
The second group is healthy fats, which includes monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Foods containing monounsaturated fats have a number of potential health benefits, such as helping to control blood sugar, improving blood cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease. Avocados, peanut butter, and oils, such as olive oil and sunflower oil, contain this type of fat. Plant-based foods are the primary source of polyunsaturated fats. Eating foods that contain this type of fat may improve one’s blood cholesterol, reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, and lower blood pressure. Vegetable oils are a source of polyunsaturated fats as are fish that are high in fats, such as mackerel, trout, or salmon. Omega – 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats. Healthy fats are often liquid when at room temperature, but solidify at cooler temperatures.
Fats are relatively high in calories and should be used in moderation. This includes the healthy fats. Despite their benefits, they contain the same amount of calories as unhealthy fats. Across the board, every fat gram has nine calories. The overconsumption of calories leads to a build-up of body fat, which may lead to obesity, type II diabetes, or other health problems.
Healthy fats should be included as a part of a healthy diet; however, due to the number of calories per gram, people should be aware of exactly how much is in their daily diet. Less than 30 percent of one’s daily calories should come from fat, with less than ten percent from saturated fats, ten percent or less from polyunsaturated fats, and between ten and fifteen percent from monounsaturated fats. Diets should consist of fish, lean meats and poultry, as well as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Dairy products should be fat-free or low-fat. When reading labels in grocery store, caution should be used when labels read “0 Trans Fats” or if there is a claim that the food is “Trans fat-free.” Often these food items will be high in saturated fats and are not as healthy as the label implies.
Fats are a necessary nutrient that provides numerous benefits to the human body. The key to healthfully including fats in one’s diet is to understand what is both good and bad about them. This includes knowing which fats to avoid and which fats are actually healthy. Even healthy fats, however, should be included with care in one’s diet.
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