For years now, fats have been pictured as the bad guys. They have been accused of causing obesity problems, heart diseases and food related conditions like diabetes. But, the truth is, not all fats are bad and before you repudiate fats, it is important to know the various types of fat.
In this article, I will share sources of healthy dietary fats. Read this article and you will know which fats are good for your body and which will just make you fat and may harm your health. Without knowing which fats are good and which are bad, you will likely never be able to lose weight and keep it off.
Benefits of ‘good fats’
The human body needs fat to function. The fats that are taken in by the body are converted into cholesterol by the liver. Cholesterol too is essential for the body. It plays a vital role in producing hormones, bile acids and Vitamin D. The fats in the body other than cholesterol are known as fatty acids.
‘Good fats’ or ‘healthy fats’ are essential for the body in many ways:
- Energy: They are an important source of energy.
- Digestion: Fats in foods prolong the digestive process so that the body has time to absorb more nutrients from food.
- Health: They keep the skin and hair healthy
- Brain: Half the weight of the human brain is fats and is essential for a number of brain functions like learning, memory retention and mood regulation.
- Cells: Fats keep the cells flexible and help in building cell membranes. Fats also act as cushions for the delicate organs of the body.
- Heart: They reduce the risk of developing a number of serious heart diseases. They also provide energy for the heart to keep pumping blood.
- Nerves: Fats protect nerves and speed up the electrical transmission of nerve impulses
- Diseases: They play a role in averting conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and depression. They may even be effective in arresting cancer
Healthy fats and their sources
Healthy fats may be divided into three:
Monounsaturated fats: These turn cloudy at low temperatures. These healthy fats are mostly found in plant oils like olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil. Monounsaturated fats are also found in nuts like almonds, peanuts, avocados, pecans and hazelnuts. They are present in some seeds too. Examples include pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
Polyunsaturated fats: These are liquid at all temperatures and include omega-3 fatty acids which are highly beneficial for the body. Polyunsaturated fats are found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oils, sunflower, corn and soya bean. They are also found in nuts like walnuts. They are abundant in certain kinds of fish.
Omega-3 and Omega – 6 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, meaning that the body cannot make these fatty acids although they are important for good health. These fats are anti-inflammatory and protect the body from a number of infections. They also regulate the clotting of blood and assist in keeping the brain healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids play a role in preventing cardiovascular diseases as they prevent the deposit of fats in the arteries. They also protect the body from liver cancer. Omega-3 increases the amount of grey matter in the brain and keeps depression at bay. By eating foods rich in Omega-3, it is possible to prevent brain lesions that ultimately result in memory loss and dementia.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring. It is also found abundantly in flaxseed oil and walnuts.
It is important to note that in a healthy diet there should be a relation of about 2:1 – 4:1 between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. In most western diets, this ratio is skewed as most of us eat a lot more omega-6 than we need.
The human body needs fats to perform vital functions. So, healthy fats are essential for the body. But, when you start eating too much fat from unhealthy sources, you put yourself in great danger. Therefore, it is important to know your fat before you eat it!