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Home  »  Healthy Nutrition  »  About Healthy Nutrition  »  The Elements of a Healthy Diet  »  Fats

About Healthy Nutrition

The Elements of a Healthy Diet

Fats

Fats in our food are a prime source of energy and ensure the smooth functioning of the body, in particular the nervous system. They contain Vitamin A and D and are found in meat, fish, dairy products and vegetable oils.

Fat is stored by our body in special cells. Stored fat is a concentrated source of energy and it serves as fuel for our bodies.

The terms "saturated" and "unsaturated" fats refer to the chemical bonding structure.

  1. A saturated fat tends to be more solid at room temperature than an unsaturated one. Saturated fats usually come from an animal source like butter with the exception of coconut oil.
     
  2. An unsaturated fat tends to be more liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats usually come from plant sources like corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, grape-seed oil and tea seed oil. Unsaturated fats are broken down into two further groups: monounsaturates, which include olive oil and avocados and polyunsaturates, which are found in corn, sunflower seeds and peanuts.


Good fats
Good fats are normally "polyunsaturated" or "monounsaturated". Certain polyunsaturates are "essential fatty acids". This means that our body must get them from our food. The two main essential polyunsaturates are linoleic acid (Omega-6) and linolenic acid (Omega-3). These oils are found naturally in fresh foods, such as nuts, vegetables and fish.

To get your daily intake of essential fatty acids, it is recommended to choose from:

  • Sesame seeds and sunflower seeds (Omega-6)
  • Pumpkin and linseeds (Omega-3)
  • Fish oils
  • Evening primrose and borage
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids like olive oil and tea seed oil (also known as Camellia oil)


Bad fats
A high intake of saturated fats - animal fats - has been linked to many diseases including heart disease, stroke, obesity and cancer. Saturated fat clogs the arteries and interferes with the body's metabolism, adding extra weight and preventing the absorption of beneficial nutrients.

Unsaturated fats, while better than saturated fats, do have certain risks. Polyunsaturated vegetable margarines and "half-fat" spreads are usually hydrogenated, which means that they are processed to change them from liquids (oils) to solid or semi-solid fats. A high intake of hydrogenated fat has been linked to cancer, heart disease and other conditions.

To reduce health hazards associated with bad fats, it is recommended to:

  • Eat pure vegetable oil margarine instead of hydrogenated ones
  • Stir-fry instead of deep-frying
  • Keep animal fats, like lard, to a minimum


Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a white, waxy, fatlike substance that occurs in our body tissues. It is naturally produced by the human body because it serves several needs. It is stored in the adrenal glands, testes and ovaries and converted to steroid hormones. It helps the liver to make bile, which is necessary to digest food, especially fats. It also insulates our nerves.

We need cholesterol but the problem is that we get too much of it. Excess cholesterol can build up in the bloodstream and accumulate on the walls of arteries clogging the blood vessels and leading to heart attack and stroke. Cholesterol is found in foods that contain saturated fats like animal products. It is recommended that you have your cholesterol levels medically checked from time to time and to follow the appropriate advice to reduce it if too high.



6 March, 2016
 


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