How Does Your Body Use Fat? Here’s the Skinny on Fat!
Fat is an important source of energy, and helps the absorption of some compounds. Fat also insulates your body and cushions your major organs.
At 9 calories per gram, compared with 4 calories per gram for both carbohydrates and protein, fat is a major fuel source for your body. Your body has an unlimited ability to store excess energy (calories) as fat. In fact, your fat reserves have the capacity to enlarge as much as 1,000 times their original size, as more fat is added. If your cells fill to capacity, your body can add more fat cells. It is recommended that 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from healthy fats. Your heart, liver, and resting muscles prefer fat as their fuel source, which spares glucose to be used for your nervous system and red blood cell. In fact, fat is your main source of energy throughout the day. This fat stored in your fat cells provides a backup source of energy between meals. In a famine situation, some individuals could last months without eating, depending upon the extent of their fat stores and the availability of adequate fluids. Fat allows you to absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Different types of Fats
Saturated Fatty Acid– also known as Stearic Acid is solid at room temperature. It can be found in meat, cocoa butter(in chocolate), coffee creamer, whole milk, cream cheese, cheeseburger, beef, (red meat) hot dog, butter, nachos with cheese, and vanilla ice cream. Coconuts, and palm kernel oils, are very high in saturated fats. (This fat should be limited or eliminated for the diet)
Trans Fats– provide a richer texture to foods, and a longer shelf life, and better resistance to rancidity that unsaturated fats. Many manufacturers use them in many commercially made food products from cottonseed oil. It is found in cookies, cakes, and crackers, fried chips, snacks, and doughnuts. Tran’s fats are frequently used for frying at fast-food restaurants. Tran’s fats must now be listed of food labels. (These fats should be avoid from the diet)
Unsaturated Fats– are abundant in vegetable oils, such as soybean, corn, and canola oils, as well as soybeans, walnuts, flaxseed, and wheat germ. Found in lean meats, vegetables, dairy foods, skinless poultry and oil-based spreads.
Essential Fatty Acids-these fats are essential in the diet to protect our cells from damage and to help with absorption of foods. Omega 3 Fatty Acids- helps keep cell membrane healthy. They are heart healthy. Good sources for omega 3’s are Lobster, Cod, Tuna, Shrimp, Crab, Sardines, Herring, Avocados, and Salmon. Make your own ground turkey burger on a whole grain bun instead. Add lettuce, a slice of avocado and tomato, and you won’t miss the red meat or the mayo!
Switching from a typical western diet to a Mediterranean diet seem difficult if you’re not used to olive oil, fish and some of the vegetables and seasonings often associated with this region.
The Mediterranean diet has a reputation for being a model of healthy eating. It is rich in olive oil, grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and fish, but low in meat, dairy products and alcohol. Red wine, allowed!!
Wrapping it up: The best way to minimize both dietary cholesterol and saturated fat intake, is to keep your portions of lean meat, skinless poultry, and fish to about 6oz daily. Use only nonfat or low fat dairy foods. Use vegetable and olive oil for cooking and dressings, avoid saturated fatty foods.
There are two main types of potentially harmful dietary fat — fat that is mostly saturated and fat that contains trans fat:
- Saturated fat. This is a type of fat that comes mainly from animal sources of food, such as red meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Saturated fat raises total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Saturated fat may also increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Trans fat. This is a type of fat that occurs naturally in some foods in small amounts. But most trans fats are made from oils through a food processing method called partial hydrogenation. By partially hydrogenating oils, they become easier to cook with and less likely to spoil than do naturally occurring oils. Research studies show that these partially hydrogenated trans- fats can increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol and lower healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. This can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Healthier dietary fat
- The types of potentially helpful dietary fat are mostly unsaturated:
- Most fats that have a high percentage of saturated fat or that contain trans- fats are solid at room temperature. Because of this, they’re typically referred to as solid fats. They include beef fat, pork fat, butter, shortening and stick margarine.
- Monounsaturated fat. This is a type of fat found in a variety of foods and oils. Studies show that eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. Research also shows that MUFAs may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.
- Polyunsaturated fat. This is a type of fat found mostly in plant-based foods and oils. Evidence shows that eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. PUFAs may also help decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. One type of polyunsaturated fat is made up of mainly omega-3 fatty acids and may be especially beneficial to your heart. Omega-3, found in some types of fatty fish, appears to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease. It may also protect against irregular heartbeats and help lower blood pressure levels. There are plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. However, the body doesn’t convert it and use it as well as omega-3 from fish.
- Foods made up mostly of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, such as olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil and corn oil. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring. Plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed (ground), oils (canola, flaxseed, soybean), and nuts and other seeds (walnuts, butternuts and sunflower).
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