Fats (lipids) sometimes lose their importance amongst the constant controversial and diverse media outlets. Fats are an energy efficient nutrient and play important roles within the body. Some roles include standardisation of body temperature, inflammatory regulation and or assisting in the absorption & transportation of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, & K).
Daily we require moderate fat intake from a variety of food sources. Additional fat from our daily diets, stores within our cells, until the body requires further energy. When the body demands increased energy, the chemical breakdown of fats is known as ‘metabolism’. Fat that is stored throughout our body in fat cells is formally known as ‘adipocytes’. These fat cells can increase and decrease dependant on the amount of fat accumulated over time for storage. When fat is consumed excessively over time, particularly without moderate exercise or movement, minimal energy is demanded for breakdown, thus stored fat cells expand, leading to adverse weight gain as opposed to sufficient exercise, where increased energy is demanded causing fat cells to shrink, leading to weight loss.
However, the underlining problem comes down to the ‘types’ of fat sources in which we are consuming everyday. Differing fats cause divergent effects within our body.
Lets begin with “Saturated Fats” & “Trans Fatty Acids”.
Saturated Fats contain no double bonds. The molecules present in saturated fat are dense and form clumps, which accumulate in our body’s cells, organs and arteries, thus leading to high blood pressure risks and adverse heart health effects.
Food Sources – Whole Milk Dairy Products, Poultry Skin, Fatty Cut Meats
Trans Fatty Acids are produced through a food process known as ‘hydrogenation or partial hydrogenation’, where polyunsaturated fatty acids are turned into trans fatty acids. Trans Fats cause large increases in LDL (low density lipoprotein), unwanted cholesterol and decrease HDL (high density lipoprotein), essential cholesterol.
Food Sources – Baked Goods (biscuits), Fried Foods, Packaged Foods (pies, chips)
— Products should have < 0.2g per 100g serve —
* These two sources of fats should be greatly limited within our diets and ensure to read labels carefully on baked / packaged goods in your supermarkets!
Next, “Monounsaturated + Polyunsaturated Fats”
Monounsaturated Fats contain one double bond and although they can be synthesised by the body, they are still relevant to our health and should be considered in moderation and variety. They are also a great source of Vitamin E and Antioxidants.
Food Sources – Olives (& oil), Avocado, Nuts (brazil, almonds), Seeds (sesame)
Polyunsaturated Fats include both Omega 3 & 6 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). They contain one or more double bonds and cannot be synthesised by our bodies, thus are required in the diet through an array of foods and are important for many bodily functions. Together, LDL can be decreased and HDL can be increased; yet the body can additionally use both omegas individually for different purposes.
– Omega 3 Fats are essential for brain development, eye health, help reduce inflammation, and help heart disease and arthritis conditions.
Food Sources – Nuts (walnuts), Seeds (chia), Soy Beans, Oily Fish (salmon, tuna)
– Omega 6 Fats support our cells structure; help mediate blood flow & inflammation.
Food Sources – Nuts (hazelnuts), Seeds (sesame, sunflower), Green Leafy Veggies
Conclusively, fat is the most energy abundant nutrient and if any source is consumed in excess, it will increase the accumulation of fat cell storage and lead to the possibility of adverse health issues.
Take Home Message. Moderately, include an array of essential fat food sources into your daily diet to help increase satiety, variety, texture and colour within each meal and only consume non – essential fats on rare occasions.