What fats does our body need that are part of a healthy diet? This fact seems to have finally become an axiom. However, not everyone knows which fats are useful and what is their effect on the body.
Why do you need fat
Fats or lipids are an important energy source for the body: one gram of fat gives us 9 kcal of energy. In addition, lipids support metabolism, promote the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, synthesize hormones and bile acids. Most importantly, they are involved in building cells, including brain cells, which are made up of 60% fat. Lack of fat leads to a deficiency of myelin – a substance that acts as a kind of electrical mediator for nerve cells. Thanks to it, nerve impulses are dispersed and signals are transmitted quickly and accurately. One of the most unpleasant consequences of a lack of myelin is multiple sclerosis.
What are fats
But not all fats are created equal. The biggest danger to health are the so-called trans fats. They cause many diseases and cause half a million premature deaths a year. The trans fats that result from the hydrogenation of vegetable oils are really harmful. The process of hydrogenation was invented in the early 19th and 20th centuries and its essence, simply put, is the conversion of liquid oils into solid fats. The most famous product of hydrogenation is margarine. In general, all alternative fats, or rather fatty acids, are divided into two types – saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fatty acids have single bonds between carbon atoms, unsaturated fatty acids have double or triple bonds.
Furthermore, in the latter case, these bonds can be either one (and then the fatty acid is considered monounsaturated) or two or more (such acids are called polyunsaturated). As saturated bonds are more stable, foods rich in saturated fats are more resistant to external influences (eg oxygen): these are, in particular, butter, beef, pork, mutton and others. It is easy to guess that the products in which unsaturated fatty acids predominate are mainly vegetable oils, whose chemical formula does not allow them to accept a solid state. It is also important to understand that the same product may contain different types of fats – up to trans fats, which, although in small quantities, are contained in meat and butter, for example.
How much fat does a person need
How much and what kind of fat should a person consume? In this regard, the WHO gives the clearest recommendations: in the diet of an adult:
- fats must not exceed 30% of the total energy consumed;
- the share of saturated fats is limited to 10%;
- the share of trans fats
- 1%. However, this axiom is occasionally questioned by scientists.
A 2017 study by the European Society of Cardiology states that high fat intake (up to 35%) is not as dangerous to health as carbohydrate abuse. However, the fact that saturated fats in the diet should be less than unsaturated is not disputed.
Excessive consumption of animal products (the main source of saturated fatty acids) leads to increased cholesterol levels, which, in turn, leads to high blood pressure and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Complete rejection of saturated fats is also not welcome.
Advice from nutritionists: Try to eat animal food in the morning. Unsaturated fats are healthier than saturated fats. Our body receives them from vegetable oils (olive oil, flaxseed, sunflower, etc.), as well as fish, seafood, nuts, some cereals (eg oats and flax). But you should also be careful with unsaturated fats, because they often lead to unpleasant consequences.