Although fats have received a bad reputation for causing weight gain, they are essential for survival and performance. They provide energy, absorbs certain nutrients and maintain your core body temperature. You need to consume fat every day to support these functions, but some types of fat are better for you than others. Good fats protect your heart and keep your body healthy, while bad fats increase your risk of disease and damage your heart.
We need to fuel with the proper fats for:
- Normal growth and development
- Energy (fat is the most concentrated source of energy)
- Absorbing certain vitamins ( like vitamins A, D, E, K, and carotenoids)
- Providing cushioning for the organs
- Maintaining cell membranes
- Providing taste, consistency, and stability to foods
Fat is found in meat, poultry, nuts, milk products, butters and margarines, oils, lard, fish, grain products and salad dressings. There are three main types of fat, saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and trans fat. Saturated fat (found in foods like meat, butter, lard, and cream) and trans fat (found in baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, and margarines) have been shown to increase your risk for heart disease. Replacing saturated and trans fat in your diet with unsaturated fat (found in foods like olive oil, avocados, nuts, and cold water fish) has been shown decrease the risk of developing heart disease.
3 Functions of Fat
While carbohydrates are the main source of fuel in your body, your system turns to fat as a backup energy source when carbohydrates are not available. Fat is a concentrated source of energy. One gram of fat has 9 calories, which is more than double the amount of calories from carbohydrates and protein.
Some types of vitamins rely on fat for absorption and storage. Vitamins A, D, E and K, called fat-soluble vitamins, cannot function without adequate daily fat intake. These vitamins are essential parts of your daily diet. Vitamin A keeps your eyes healthy and promotes good vision, vitamin D assists in keeping your bones strong by boosting calcium absorption, vitamin E protects cells by neutralizing free radicals and vitamin K is important for blood clotting. If you don’t meet your daily fat intake or follow a low-fat diet, absorption of these vitamins may be limited resulting in impaired functioning.
Fat cells, stored in adipose tissue, insulate your body and help sustain a normal core body temperature. Adipose tissue is not always visible, but if you are overweight, you may be able to see it under your skin. You might notice an abundance of adipose tissue in certain areas, causing lumpy patches around your thighs and stomach. Other stored fats surround vital organs and keep them protected from sudden movements or outside impacts.