Fat Facts—the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

When people hear the word fat , a lot would immediately cringe and subconsciously cover their middle area. For a lot of people, that word has quite a negative connotation. But what most don’t know, there are good kinds as well. It’s is not all that bad. And we’re here to tell you everything about it, every little detail.

What Exactly Is Fat?

It’s actually one of the three main macronutrients in the body. The other two are protein and carbohydrates. Fat is the nutrient that gives the body energy to get you going through the day. Fats are also known as triglycerides and are esters of three fatty acid chains and the alcohol glycerol. Fats are soluble in organic solvents and insoluble water.

This nutrient is very important for many forms of life. It serves metabolic and structural purposes. It’s very necessary to a healthy diet of human beings.

There are two essential fatty acids in the nutrition of humans. One is linoleic acid, which is an omega-6 fatty acid. The other is alpha-linoleic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid.  

The Types

There are three major types. There’s saturated, unsaturated, and trans. Let’s go ahead and discuss each of them.

Saturated Fat

This type is also known as solid fat as it is solid at room temperature. This is linked to a n increase of total and LDL cholesterol in the blood. This then increases the likelihood of heart disease.

This type is mostly found in animal food, like cheese, milk, and meat. Poultry and fish have a lesser amount of saturated fat than meat. This can also be found in tropical oils like palm oil, coconut oil, and cocoa butter.

Here’s an easier list of food that contains this:

  • Fatty meat
  • Chicken skin
  • Processed meat
  • Full-fat milk
  • Yogurt
  • Butter, lard, or dripping
  • Cooking/baking margarine
  • Cheese
  • Cream
  • Ice cream
  • Palm oil
  • Ghee
  • Deep-fried food
  • Baked goods (cakes, cookies, pastries, pies, biscuits, etc.)
  • Coconut (cream, oil, milk)

Unsaturated Fat

This type is liquid at room temperature. It can be found mostly from plants. Taking in more unsaturated fats over saturated fats is healthier, as it improves cholesterol levels.

This type of fat is also divided into two types.

Polyunsaturated Fat

This is usually in vegetable oils, like corn, soybean, safflower, and sunflower. It is also the main kind of fat found in seafood. There are again two types of polyunsaturated fat, which are omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Both are vital for a healthy heart. Omega-3s also reduce inflammation and benefit brain health as well.

Here’s a list of where you can get polyunsaturated fat:

  • Walnuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower oil, seeds, spread
  • Flaxseed oil and seeds
  • Corn oil
  • Maize oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Soya spread
  • Polyunsaturated margarine

Monounsaturated Fat

They are considered as the healthiest type as they lower total cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol. They also improve HDL cholesterol levels.

Below are the best ways you can get a good dose of monounsaturated fat:

  • Peanuts
  • Peanut oil
  • Peanut spread
  • Olives
  • Olive oil
  • Olive spread
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Rapeseed spread
  • Avocados
  • Avocado oil

Trans Fat

The last type naturally occurs in small amounts of meat and dairy products. This is also produced when unsaturated fats are altered when undergoing a process that increases their shelf life. This process is called hydrogenation, and it makes the fat harder at room temperature.

Like saturated fats, they increase LDL cholesterol but reduce HDL cholesterol levels. If you wish to live longer and healthier, it’s best to avoid this.

Here are where you can find trans fat:

  • Processed food
  • Chips
  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Salad dressing
  • Shortening
  • Products with HVO/PHVO

The Benefits

Yes, having too much of the wrong kind of fat has its drawbacks, but consuming the right kind and in just the right amount has plenty of benefits to the human body.

Good Body Composition

When you eat fat, it fills you up faster and makes sure this full feeling lasts for a long time. Also, the body requires just the right amount of fat in order to stay lean.

Replacing carbs with this nutrient also improves insulin sensitivity, reduces inflammation, and supports the body’s metabolism.  

The omega-3s in healthy fat help with the production of genes that burn fat. In addition, they also turn off the genes that store fat. Also, omega-3s improve thyroid hormone function.This hormone is vital in body fat regulation.

Stronger Immunity

Saturated fats contain lauric acid and myristic acid. These two are anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and anti-viral. They also have the ability to lower infection rates by killing bacteria and dangerous pathogens. This then lowers your risk of infections and diseases.

Better Skin and Eyes

A deficit in fatty acids leads to dry skin and dry eyes. Healthy omega-3s make sure your entire body is lubricated just right. Saturated fats contain fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamins A, D, E, and K. They help maintain and keep the body properly lubricated.

Improved Reproductive Health

Fat is necessary for the reproductive health in both men and women. It’s used to produce hormones, and it improves gene signaling, which regulates hormone balance.

The regular intake of the good kind of this nutrient increases the production of androgens, stronger libido, better performance, and overall  better reproductive health.

Helps with Mental Health

Make sure to have adequate amounts of the good kind of fat, and take less of trans fat. The intake of too much bad fats is linked to depression. A good balance of the the kinds of fat that you take in controls mental health.

The Disadvantages

Now here’s where a lot of people are familiar with: the disadvantages of fat. Let’s take a clearer look at some of the most common ones.

Increases Risk of Heart Disease

Food with high saturated fats and trans fats increase LDL cholesterol levels in your body. Too much LDL allows plaque to build up in the coronary arteries. Eventually, the plaque will harden and will narrow the arteries, which then interrupts the smooth blood flow to the heart. This leads to heart attacks and other cardiovascular issues.

Leads to Obesity

Of course, since the bad fats have no nutrients whatsoever, eating too much will affect a person’s body weight. Obesity occurs when we take in too much calories than necessary for the body’s energy. Keep in mind that fat contains 9 calories per gram. That means fat contains double the amount of calories in carbs and protein.

Causes Cancer

According to breastcancer.org, eating too much trans fats increases breast cancer risk. Yet another study by the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that the more a person eats trans fat, the more pre-cancerous polyps show up in the colon.

Kate B. Forsyth is a writer for Be Healthy Today, who specializes in health and nutrition. Her passion is to help people get an overall transformation of health that lasts a lifetime. In her blog posts, she goes beyond research by providing health-concerned citizens doable and simple tricks to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

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