Fat is an essential part of your diet. It provides energy, absorbs certain nutrients and maintains your core body temperature. You need to consume fat every day to support these functions, but some types of fat are better for you than others. Good fats protect your heart and keep your body healthy, while bad fats increase your risk of disease and damage your heart.
The main function of fats in the body is to provide energy: By supplying energy, fats save proteins from being used for energy and allow them to perform their more important role of building and repairing tissues. Fats on oxidation provide almost twice as much energy as that given by carbohydrates.
The fats provide on oxidation about 37 kJ of energy per gram as compared to 17kj of energy per gram of carbohydrates. Fats yield more energy than carbohydrates because fats contain less percentage of oxygen and higher percentage of carbon and hydrogen as compared with carbohydrates.
Fats can also be stored in body for subsequent use. When we consume food which has more energy than is required by the body for performing various functions, the excess food is deposited under our skin in the from of subcutaneous fat.
In addition to supplying energy, fats also help in forming structural material of cells and tissues such as the cell membrane.
Fats also carry the fats soluble vitamins A, D, E and K into the body and help in the absorption of these vitamins in the intestines.
Fats play a vital role in maintaining healthy skin and hair, insulating body organs against shock, maintaining body temperature, and promoting healthy cell function.
Fat also serves as a useful buffer towards a host of diseases. When a particular substance, whether chemical or biotic, reaches unsafe levels in the bloodstream, the body can effectively dilute or at least maintain equilibrium of the offending substances by storing it in new fat tissue. This helps to protect vital organs, until such time as the offending substances can be metabolized and/or removed from the body by such means as excretion, urination, accidental or intentional bloodletting, sebum excretion, and hair growth.
While it is nearly impossible to remove fat completely from the diet, it would also be unhealthy to do so. Some fatty acids are essential nutrients, meaning that they can't be produced in the body from other compounds and need to be consumed in small amounts. All other fats required by the body are non-essential and can be produced in the body from other compounds.
Some fats supply essential fatty acids.
Opt for good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, or MUFAs and PUFAs, whenever possible. These heart-healthy fats stabilize cholesterol levels and lower your overall risk of cardiovascular disease when you consume them in place of bad fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats come from vegetable oils, nuts, avocados and cold-water fish, such as salmon and tuna. Bad fats, or saturated and trans fats, raise low-density lipoprotein, also called LDL, cholesterol. Elevated low-density lipoprotein hardens arteries and raises blood pressure. Over time, you may be more at risk of heart attack and stroke. You need increased levels of high-density lipoprotein to rid your body of excess low-density lipoprotein. Trans fats are especially harmful because they lower your high-density lipoprotein, also called HDL cholesterol, reports "The New York Times." Saturated and trans fats are naturally occurring in meat, seafood and dairy, but processed junk foods also contain these damaging fats.
There are four major types of fats:
Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are known as the “good fats” because they are good for your heart, your cholesterol, and your overall health.
Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)
Sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds
Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines)
Saturated fats and trans fats are known as the “bad fats” because they increase your risk of disease and elevate cholesterol. It’s worth noting that not all “bad fats” are completely unhealthy; some, such as whole-fat dairy products which are a good source of calcium and protein, can have positive health benefits as well, when consumed in moderation.
Appearance-wise, saturated fats and trans fats tend to be solid at room temperature (think of butter or traditional stick margarine), while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats tend to be liquid (think of olive or corn oil).
High-fat cuts of meat (beef, lamb, pork)
Chicken with the skin
Whole-fat dairy products (milk and cream)
Palm and coconut oil
Commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough
Packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips)
Fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, breaded fish)
General guidelines for choosing healthy fats
With so many different sources of dietary fat some good and some bad the choices can get confusing. But the bottom line is simple: don’t go no-fat, go good fat.
If you are concerned about your weight or heart health, rather than avoiding fat in your diet, try replacing saturated fats and trans fats with good fats. This might mean replacing some of the meat you eat with beans and legumes, or using olive oil rather than butter.
Try to eliminate trans fats from your diet. Check food labels for trans fats. Avoiding commercially-baked goods goes a long way. Also limit fast food.
Limit your intake of saturated fats by cutting back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods. Try replacing red meat with beans, nuts, poultry, and fish whenever possible, and switching from whole milk and other full-fat dairy foods to lower fat versions.
Eat omega-3 fats every day. Good sources include fish, walnuts, ground flax seeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil.
How much fat is too much depends on your lifestyle, your weight, your age, and most importantly the state of your health. The USDA recommends that the average individual:
Keep total fat intake to 20-35% of calories
Limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your calories (200 calories for a 2000 calorie diet)Limit trans fats to 1% of calories (2 grams per day for a 2000 calorie diet)
Saturated fats: Reduce this bad fat
When focusing on healthy fats, a good place to start is reducing your consumption of saturated fats. Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products such as red meat and whole milk dairy products. Poultry and fish also contain saturated fat, but less than red meat. Other sources of saturated fat include tropical vegetable oils such as coconut oil and palm oil.
Simple ways to reduce saturated fat
Eat less red meat (beef, pork, or lamb) and more fish and chicken
Go for lean cuts of meat, and stick to white meat, which has less saturated fat.
Bake, broil, or grill instead of frying.
Remove the skin from chicken and trim as much fat off of meat as possible before cooking.
Avoid breaded meats and vegetables and deep-fried foods.
Choose low-fat milk and lower-fat cheeses like mozzarella whenever possible; enjoy full-fat dairy in moderation.
Use liquid vegetable oils such as olive oil or canola oil instead of lard, shortening, or butter.
Avoid cream and cheese sauces, or have them served on the side.
Sources of Saturated Fats - Healthier Options
Butter - Olive oil
Chees - Low-fat or reduced-fat cheese
Red meat - White meat chicken or turkey
Cream - Low-fat milk or fat-free creamer
Eggs - Egg whites, an egg substitute (e.g. Eggbeaters), or tofu
Ice cream - Frozen yogurt or reduced fat ice cream
Whole milk - Skim or 1% milk
Sour cream - Plain, non-fat yogurt
Eliminate trans fats from your diet
A trans fat is a normal fat molecule that has been twisted and deformed during a process called hydrogenation. During this process, liquid vegetable oil is heated and combined with hydrogen gas. Partially hydrogenating vegetable oils makes them more stable and less likely to spoil, which is very good for food manufacturers—and very bad for you.
No amount of trans fats is healthy. Trans fats contribute to major health problems, from heart disease to cancer.
Sources of trans fats
Many people think of margarine when they picture trans fats, and it’s true that some margarines are loaded with them. However, the primary source of trans fats in the Western diet comes from commercially-prepared baked goods and snack foods:
Baked goods – cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, and some breads like hamburger buns
Fried foods – doughnuts, French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, and hard taco shells
Snack foods – potato, corn, and tortilla chips; candy; packaged or microwave popcorn
Solid fats – stick margarine and semi-solid vegetable shortening
Pre-mixed products – cake mix, pancake mix, and chocolate drink mix
Getting more good, unsaturated fats in your diet
You need to avoid saturated fat and trans fat… but how do you get the healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats everyone keeps talking about?
The best sources of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and fish.
Cook with olive oil. Use olive oil for stovetop cooking, rather than butter, stick margarine, or lard. For baking, try canola or vegetable oil.
Eat more avocados. Try them in sandwiches or salads or make guacamole. Along with being loaded with heart and brain-healthy fats, they make for a filling and satisfying meal.
Reach for the nuts. You can also add nuts to vegetable dishes or use them instead of breadcrumbs on chicken or fish.
Snack on olives. Olives are high in healthy monounsaturated fats. But unlike most other high-fat foods, they make for a low-calorie snack when eaten on their own. Try them plain or make a tapenade for dipping.
Dress your own salad. Commercial salad dressings are often high in saturated fat or made with damaged trans fat oils. Create your own healthy dressings with high-quality, cold-pressed olive oil, flaxseed oil, or sesame oil.
Damaged fat: When good fats go bad
A good fat can become bad if heat, light, or oxygen damages it. Polyunsaturated fats are the most fragile. Oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats (such as flaxseed oil) must be refrigerated and kept in an opaque container. Cooking with these oils also damages the fats. Never use oils, seeds, or nuts after they begin to smell or taste rank or bitter.
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