Dietary fats are one of the basic dietary macronutrients and they are generally regarded as being bad for you. For many years dietitians and medical professionals have preached a low fat diet for helping deal with weight gain and cholesterol. While fats can be very bad in a diet, it is crucial to understand that there are different types of fats; some of these are good for the body and others are bad. Knowing the different types of dietary fats is the key in controlling their dietary intake and how they affect your well-being.
The most common dietary fat that is well known is saturated fat. These are the common fats that are indeed bad for the body in large amounts. Saturated fats are found in most dairy products, fatty cuts of meat, certain oils and lard. These are a constant cause of high cholesterol and related to a range of other diseases including certain types of cancer. Saturated fats provide the body with a source of fuel, however, in doing so they are difficult to break down to provide this fuel. The general recommendation is to limit the intake to less than 10% of daily energy intake.
Trans fats are the other kind of ‘bad fats’ and are found in highly processed foods such as baked goods, margarine, fried foods, sweets and chips. High amounts of trans fats in the diet is directly linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease. The effect that trans fats have on the body are reducing the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) by the body having to break down the trans fats. The other effect is that they will also raise your bad cholesterol (LDL). They have also been linked to liver damage, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and obesity. The effect of trans fats on the diet and body has led to many countries around the world regulating the use of them in foods to varying degrees.
While fats can be bad, there are also good fats that help the body by reducing bad cholesterol and providing easy to break down sources of fuel. Monounsaturated fats are one example and can be found in various oils such as olive oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil as well as many nuts such as almonds, pecans, cashew nuts and hazelnuts. These kinds of fats are in liquid form at room temperature. In the body, they aid skeletal muscle and have a positive effect on the bodies reaction to insulin.
The other type of good fat is called polyunsaturated fat. These are found in fish, seeds, soy milk, tofu and certain oils. Again, they are liquid at room temperature. Polyunsaturated fats are sources of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids which have become publicly reported as being essential for healthy living and heart maintenance. They are regarded as essential fatty acids as they aid in brain development and heart maintenance.
Fats are both good and bad for the body and the different types are important when considering dietary intake. Unsaturated fats should be a good proportion of the daily calorie intake while saturated fats should be kept to a minimum. Good advice would also be to eliminate trans fats from the diet altogether.