Fat is another of the macro nutrients necessary for survival. Fat is an essential nutrient necessary for normal body function. It supplies energy, is necessary for absorption of fat soluble vitamins, protects our organs and forms the structure of cell membranes. Fat is broken down into fatty acids, which can travel in the blood and be captured by hungry cells. Contrary to popular belief, eating fat does not make you fat. Over consumption of carbohydrates and protein leads to excess body fat. Dietary fats are found primary in animal products like meat and dairy but can also be found in some fruits like avocados and in oils, nuts and seeds.
There are 3 different types of fat. Saturated fat is solid at room temperature and includes fat from animal products, cheese and butter. It can also be found in some tropical oils like coconut and palm oil. Saturated fat is generally a more stable fat, meaning it is less likely to turn rancid during processing or exposure to heat. This stability makes it an excellent choice for high heat cooking. However, some research suggests that saturated fat make contribute to other health conditions so moderation is important. Unsaturated fats are naturally liquid at room temperature. Examples of unsaturated fat include olive oil, canola oil, the oils in nuts and seeds and the oils in fish and in avocados. Unsaturated fats generally come from vegetarian sources. These fats are less shelf stable and need to be stored away from exposure to heat and sunlight and used in a timely manner. They should be avoided for high heat cooking. The final type of fat, trans fats, should be avoided at all times. Trans fats are normally liquid at room temperature, but have been chemically modified to be solid at room temperature through the process of hydrogenation. Trans fats are used in food manufacturing to improve the shelf life of various food items, and to enhance taste and texture. Trans fats have been shown to raise LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and lower HDL (the “good” cholesterol).
Essential fatty acids are very important to include in your diet. The body can’t produce them so it must obtain them from food. Fatty acids are necessary for numerous normal body functions, such as controlling blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids are also associated with many health benefits, including protection against heart disease and possibly stroke. Omega-3’s and Omega-6 fatty acids can be found in a variety of foods. Foods high in Omega-3 include fatty fish like salmon or tuna, chia seeds, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables. Most people consume plenty of Omega-6 without trying by eating vegetable oils such as corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, as well as poultry and eggs. Focus on adding more Omega-3 sources to your diet to balance your ratio of Omega-3 to Omega- 6 fats.
Many oils have been damaged during extraction by high heat or have been exposed to chemicals. Focus on buying cold pressed organic oils in small containers you will use in a timely manner. Organic nuts and seeds, butter from grass fed cows and avocados are all excellent sources of high quality fats. Most people need about 3-6 servings of fat a day. A serving is 8 grams of total fat.
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