Trans Fats And Other Fats Explained
Fat is an important part of our diet.
Dietary fats come from plant and animal sources. They have important roles in our bodies and so we should not completely cut back on fats. However, the key to enjoying the benefits of dietary fats is moderation and choosing the healthy fats.
Dietary fats have many roles.
They help the absorption of Vitamins A, D, E and K (which are known as fat-soluble vitamins). Fats cover nerves and act as a cushion surrounding our internal organs. Fats function as an energy reserve that the body uses for its activities. If we consume more food than our energy expenditure, the excess calories are stored as fats. This can be seen as gaining weight.
When it comes to fat consumption, we should choose carefully the fats we consume.
Some types of fats are healthy while others are harmful to our health. Fats can be classified into saturated fats, trans fats and unsaturated fats. The saturated fats and trans fats are solid at room temperature and, therefore, they are called solid fats.
They are found in fatty beef, poultry and whole-fat dairy products.
These fats can raise the level of unhealthy LDL cholesterol in the body. Thus, they increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. It is suggested to reduce the saturated fat content in our diet to only 10% of the total calories we consume. It is recommended to replace unhealthy saturated fats with healthier alternatives such as fish and low-fat dairy products.
Most trans fats are made from oils using a process known as partial hydrogenation.
Artificial trans fats are used by fast-food restaurants since they are cheap and they last longer than the other natural fats. Trans fats also exist naturally, but just in small amounts. They increase the levels of unhealthy LDL cholesterol and lower the levels of healthy HDL cholesterol.
This increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and is associated with type 2 diabetes. Trans fats can be found in fried and baked foods such as cookies, frozen pizzas, margarine and other spreads. You can refer to the Nutrition Facts label to check if a product contains any trans fats (or partially hydrogenated oils). It is recommended to totally replace your intake of trans fats with unsaturated fats.
We should eat more unsaturated fats and less saturated fats.
Unsaturated fats lower the level of bad cholesterol in our blood and thus reduce our risk of heart diseases and stroke. They usually contain Vitamin E which is an antioxidant that has many healthy benefits. Unsaturated fats are found in many sources and can be easily incorporated into our daily diet.
They are liquid at room temperature. They can be derived from plant and animal sources. They include plant oils such as olive oil and canola oil. Unsaturated fats are also found in cashews, nuts and whole-grain products.
Omega-3 is a type of essential fats that the body needs but cannot make itself. It is found in fish such as tuna and sardines. Omega-6 is another essential fatty acid. It is found in soybean oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and cereals.
It is recommended to have a balanced intake of Omega-6 and Omega-3. The ideal ratio of their consumption is 1:1. A higher intake of Omega-6 fatty acids compared to Omega-3 leads to serious conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases and some forms of cancer. Also, it is worth knowing that some plant oils such as coconut oil and palm oil contain a larger content of saturated fats and should not be consumed too often.
By knowing the different types of fats and their effects, we can adjust our consumption. We can determine which fats to cut back and which ones to consume more, for a healthier and longer life.