Fats are important to enjoy good health and proper body function. They are an essential energy source and improve the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. However, excessive fat intake or consumption of the wrong type of fat can harm our health. In addition, fats bring a characteristic texture, appearance, and flavor to food. This article provides a summary of the types of fats we eat, the foods that contain them, their effects on health, and the recommended levels of consumption.
What are Dietary Fats?
What are the Main Categories of Fats, and What Foods are They Found in?
Fats are triglycerides form by a combination of different basic components; glycerol and fatty acids. They are classified as saturated or unsaturated (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, or trans) depending on their structure.
Fats are part of most food categories, and in general, everything we eat contains various saturated and unsaturated fats. The fat composition in each food influences its physical and functional characteristics and the consumer’s health. Products with a high proportion of saturated fat. Such as butter or lard, are solid at room temperature and usually of animal origin. Foods that contain a high proportion of unsaturated fats. Such as vegetable oil and fish oil, which contain omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, respectively, are usually liquid at room temperature. However, some vegetable oils, such as palm oil or coconut oil.
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Why Should we Eat Fats?
It is important to eat adequate amounts of the correct types of fats for different reasons. Dietary fats are one of the main energy sources of our body and act as structural components of human cells. The body cannot absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K without the help of fats.
The presence in our diets of some fats. Such as omega-3 and omega-6, is essential since the body cannot produce them. And, therefore, we must ingest them with food. Some vital processes, such as the brain, eye, and cardiac function, growth, and development, cannot be performed without them.
How Much Fats Should we Eat?
It is recommended that 20-35% of the energy intake of adults comes from fats. Thus, a woman with a moderately active lifestyle and a daily energy intake of 2,000 kcal should consume between 44 g and 78 g of fat per day. A man with a daily energy intake of 2,500 kcal should consume between 55 g and 97 g of fat per day.
The usual recommendation is that less than 10% of the total energy intake corresponds to saturated fats or, what is the same, 22 g in women and 28 g in men, and the remaining percentage, of unsaturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. It is advisable to consume the least amount of trans fat possible, without exceeding 1% of the total energy intake, that is, less than 2 g in women and less than 3 g in men.
Does Eating Fats Make you Fat?
Weight gain is not related to a single nutrient but is based on total daily energy intake and the balance of energy ingested and energy expended. Consuming extra calories than the body needs causes them to store as body fat, regardless of the source of the calories (fat, protein, or carbohydrate). What matters is the global energy balance.
However, fats are rich in energy: 1 gram of fat contains 9 kcal, that is, more than double the calories of 1 gram of carbohydrates or protein (4 kcal / g each). Therefore, foods that are high in fat provide relatively more energy than low-fat foods, and we should try not to consume them in excess.
What Health Consequences does Overweight/Obesity or Excessive Fat Intake have?
In general, a higher level of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood is associated with excessive calorie intake, but also with high fat intake. Some types of fats also carry more severe health risks. For example, trans fat consumption above the indications may contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Recent studies also show that increased intake of saturated fat may not be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Despite this, reducing the consumption of saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fat has been shown. Especially polyunsaturated, could further reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
How Much Fat do we Eat?
Many people exceed the recommended total fat intake, ranging from 37% of total energy in the west to 46%. This situation is most likely due to excessive calorie consumption, as evidenced by the levels of obesity.
The intake of saturated fats exceeds the maximum recommended in many countries, while the intake of unsaturated fats, both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, does not reach the recommended levels.
Initiatives aimed at reducing trans fat consumption through food reformulation have recently been successfully implemented. And, consumption appears to be in line with the nutritional recommendation of less than 1% of total energy intake, and some countries have yet to reduce their levels further.
How Does the Type of Fat Influence the Properties of Food?
The fats improve the texture, the appearance, and the sensation in the mouth and transmit the fat-soluble flavors. Important characteristics for food production and cooking.
Unsaturated fats tend to be less stable and more sensitive to heat, light, and air. In domestic use, such as frying pan and baking. It is advisable to use fatty spreads and oils rich in both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. When using the same oil several times, for example in cooking fries. It is recommended to use oils with mainly monounsaturated fats. Such as refined olive oil or peanut oil, since they are more stable than polyunsaturated oils. Such as corn or soybean oil, and its reuse is safer.
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