Fats Facts for Nutrition
This blog post will cover the facts around fats, its effects on the body and the functions it has.
Firstly, let see what the functions are of fats on our bodies. When it comes to fats, there are two essential fatty acids we should consume daily, these are omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Those two fatty acids have specific functions.
General functions of fats:
Formation of body structures. Fats are incorporated in the cellular structure of our bodies.
Insulation and protection. Fats provide our insulation to help keep our body temperature at a healthy level. It also provide protection around our vital internal organs.
Cell signalling and cell function. Fats are vital for proper cell function. Proper cell function is needed for the relay of messages and signals from brain to muscle.
Specific functions of the essential fatty acids (omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids):
An increase in anti-obesity (weight loss) activity by increasing fat oxidation as energy.
Brain and nerve function
Calcium and bone metabolism. Essential fatty acids help with calcium absorption for strong and healthy bones.
Anti-inflammatory effects. Essential fatty acids are needed for anti-inflammatory conditions and diseases. Essential fatty acids are and great natural anti-inflammatory.
When we talk about fats, there are two main types of fats. These two types are called saturated fats and unsaturated fats. The two essential fatty acids are two of the many unsaturated fats. They are essential because they are needed to make vital metabolites in our bodies.
Saturated fats are fat that should be consumed in a limited amount. High amounts of saturated fats have a negative effect on the body. High saturated fat levels increase the level of cholesterol in our bodies. Although cholesterol does have benefits for us such as vitamin absorption, cholesterol is already naturally produced in our bodies. High levels of cholesterol could start to clog up our arteries with plaque. This means that our arteries will slowly start to close and could lead to high blood pressure, if our arteries close completely, we will suffer from a heart attack.
Saturated fats also produce something called LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) which is referred to as 'bad cholesterol'. This is because they deliver cholesterol directly to the artery walls where it will slowly start to build up.
Sources of saturated fats:
Mainly found in animal fats
Butter and cream
Coconut and palm oil
Unsaturated fats are important for us to consume as they provide all the functions that are listed at the top of this blog. Fats are very important for our cell function and body structure. The right fats consumed will also have an anti-inflammatory effect for us which is very useful as inflammatory diseases are very common in our current society. If we want to improve our overall bodily functions, the functions that we don't think about on a daily basis, we need to consume unsaturated fats. When we think protein, we know we need it for recovery. When we think carbs, we know we need it for energy and fibre. But fats are like the backbone for our bodies. It covers all the cell and nerve function in our bodies and has great anti-inflammatory effects.
As we heard of LDL before. Unsaturated fats provide the opposite, known as HDL (High Density Lipoprotein). The function of HDL is the opposite of LDL. So if LDL delivers cholesterol directly to artery walls and dumps it there, HDL works to get rid of cholesterol from arterial walls. HDL removes cholesterol from arterial walls and brings it back to liver to recycle or excrete as bile.
Sources of unsaturated fats:
Olive oil, flaxseed oil and canola oil
Nuts and seeds
Seafood and seaweed
Another great effect of fats is that it is great for weight loss, yes I said it. We have been made to think that fats are not good for weight loss because is has more calories per gram compared to carbs and protein. What we must realise is that obesity is not a calorie amount issue, it is a calorie type issue (read 'understanding how weight loss works' blog). Fats, unlike carbs, do not spike insulin when eaten. Insulin is one of the keys to weight gain, so foods that highly produce insulin won't help. Fats don't have a large effect on insulin, meaning that it is beneficial for those that want to lose weight. That is one of the greatest effects of fats if we are looking for weight loss.
Overall, fats are great for the bodily functions and processes that we can't see but we can definitely feel. It is great for weight loss due to low insulin production with fats. I hope that this blog cleared up why fats are important and what the good fats and good sources are.