How Healthy Fats Promote Healthy Living
Dr. Amita Joshi, PhD
“Keep fatty food at bay!”
“Fats are too bad!”
There is an ample chance that you may have already heard these lines at some point if you are a calorie-conscious person or a weight watcher. FATS is the most dreaded and has always been associated with a negative undertone – be it for someone’s body type or fat content in a particular food. Long ago, eating fatty foods was the most efficient way for getting energy as it is more calorie-dense than any other nutrient. In the 1930s, after researchers found that high cholesterol led to atherosclerosis, all fats were turned BAD, and low-fat diets were in a rage. However, this paradigm shift doesn’t prove to be a healthier option either. Over the period, food experts and researchers began to understand that some fats are HEALTHIER than others and actually necessary for good health. Perhaps it is wise to say that not all fats are bad; in fact TYPE of fats matters. So, let’s take an insight into this very confusing ideology.
Let's first understand Fats. Briefly, Fats are also called fatty acids or lipids that are synthesized by our body, but there are some fats that our body cannot synthesize called essential fatty acids, which includes- Omega-3 fats & Omega 6 fats.
THE BIG FAT WORLD
Fats are used as a building material within cells, hormones and brain components and are stored in adipose or fat tissues that form the energy reservoir for the body.
However, not all fats are equal; some are essential for human body functioning while others are Bad and Ugly fats.
Good Fats- Monounsaturated fats and Polyunsaturated fats are good fats. These fats are liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats help to maintain a healthy heart and optimum cholesterol level in the body by reducing LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol). Thus, lowering the risk of heart disease. Here are a few sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
- olive oil, peanut oil
- sunflower oils
Polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids)
- flax seeds
- canola oil
- soybean oil
- vegetable oils like safflower, corn oils etc.
They are linked to health benefits like protecting against heart diseases, improving brain health, reducing BP, raising HDL & lowering triglycerides.
Bad Fats- Saturated fats and trans-fatty acids (Trans fats) can be placed in Bad fats. These are solid at room temperature. They increase LDL cholesterol leading to many cardiovascular complications like artery blockage, heart attack etc.
The Ugly Fats- Trans fats are the fats to be dreaded of! Trans fats are generated in the industrial hydrogenation process (i.e., adding more hydrogen to unsaturated fats to make them more solid). The example includes- margarine and hidden in packaged food like- doughnuts, fries, pastries. So, trans-fat is the Fat we need to be cautious about!!
WHY ARE FATS IMPORTANT TO US?
Fats are indispensable for several vital physiological processes. Let’s go through them in brief-
- Generate energy to support cell function.
- Absorb certain nutrients and produce important hormones and is instrumental in maintaining hormone balance.
- Protect your organs and help keep your body warm
- Contribute towards blood clotting, wound healing and inflammation
- Vitamin carrier- Fats help absorb fat-soluble vitamins-like vitamin A, D, E, K.
- Fats are necessary for the brain to function properly and are essential building blocks for learning and memory.
- Help boost Vitamin D absorption
- Healthy fats help fight inflammation and heart disease
Eating Fat won’t necessarily make you fat. If you are looking to cut down your calories, you will be tempted to remove all the fats from your plate. Overall, our diet should not be devoid of Fats; instead, it should include Omega- 3 Fatty acids and saturated fats should be consumed in moderation. So, one must focus on maintaining a nutritionally adequate balanced diet.
Dr. Amita Joshi
Dr. Joshi is a Pharmaceutical formulation scientist with a keen interest in scientific communication. She has several peer-reviewed international publications, book chapters and patents to her credit and been a recipient of various research awards. Her areas of interest include lipid-based formulations, lymphatic delivery, medicated contact lenses and infectious diseases.
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