Understanding Fats - Fats Explained
No longer the nutritional bad guys, healthy fats provide your body with
the fatty acids it needs to produce new cells and hormones. In addition, Vitamins
A, D, E, and K are all fat soluble, meaning they need some fat in your diet to be
absorbed. Fat is stored in the fatty tissues of your body as well as your liver as excess calories which is banked for a reserve energy supply.
Fats give you a more concentrated source of calories than carbohydrates or protein. In other words, a teaspoon of fat will have more calories than a teaspoon of carbohydrate or a teaspoon of protein. Fat also helps to protect and cushion your organs against trauma.
There are two basic types of dietary fat, saturated and unsaturated. Saturated
fats are found mainly in meat and whole-milk products, or in other words, foods
that come from animals. Coconut oil and palm oil are examples of saturated fats
which come from plants. Saturated fats are easily recognized because they are typically solid at room temperature.
Trans-fats (also called trans-saturated fats or trans-fatty acids) are formed when
liquid vegetable oils go through a process called hydrogenation, in which hydrogen
is added to make the oils more solid. Hydrogenated vegetable fats are used in food
processing because they give foods a longer shelf-life and a desirable taste, shape,
and texture. These trans-fats are now considered unhealthy and should be avoided.
Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are types of unsaturated fats and are found mainly in plant foods such as vegetables, nuts, and grains, as well as oils made from these nuts and grains (canola, corn, and soybean). Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated.
Besides vegetables, nuts, and grains, omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids are
found in cold-water fish such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel. Both mono and polyunsaturated fats may help to keep your triglyceride levels low. Triglycerides are a form of fat in your bloodstream and numerous studies have linked high triglyceride levels to increased risk of stroke and heart disease.
There are two types of fats in the body: fatty acids and triglycerides. Fatty acids
are small enough to move in and out of cells and be used as fuel for cells. Fat is
also stored inside fat cells as triglycerides, which simply means three fatty acids bound together. Triglycerides are too big to flow through cell membranes and so
are put in reserve for future use.
A quick side note: Insulin is produced in your pancreas and serves to open the gates to get glucose into your cells. But besides its role in driving glucose
into the cells, insulin also plays a major role in telling your body when to store
and use fat and protein. It does this by affecting the actions of two enzymes, lipoprotein lipase (LPL) and hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL).
LPL pulls the fat out of your bloodstream and into the cell. HSL’s job, on the
other hand, is to break down triglycerides into fatty acids that can leave your fat
cells and be then used as fuel in other cells. So, the higher your hormone-sensitive
lipase levels, the more fat you break down and burn.
Insulin reduces HSL levels, which stops triglycerides from being broken down
and means more fat is stored in fat cells. When insulin levels are up even a little
bit, fat accumulates in fat cells. Some research suggests that keeping insulin levels
steady can help some people lose weight.
- Maday Labrador