..Fat or no fat? Carbs or no carbs? Sugar or no sugar?
We get many differing answers to these questions.....here is the skinny on fat; what we need, why we need and how much we need.
The Role Fat Plays On Your Body
Why We Need Dietary Fat~Fat is essential for the healthy development, maintenance and functioning of the body's tissues, including the brain, skin and immune system. In fact, fat makes up 60% of the brain and nervous system. It is also an important energy source.
Fat In Men And Women~Men tend to store fat around the chest, abdomen and buttocks, women tend to carry fat on the breasts, hips, waist and buttocks. However, make and female bodies use fats in the same way and the percentage of fat eaten on a daily basis remains the same.
How Much Fat is Healthy?~The optimum intake of fat for an adult is 30 percent of the total calorie intake, broken down as follows:
- Saturated Fat-not more than 8-10 percent
- Monounsaturated Fat-10-12 percent
- Polyunsaturated Fat-not more than 10 percent, including EFA's
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA)~EFAs are a type of polyunsaturated fat, and are grouped into omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acid groups. These fats perform a host of minor, but essential functions in the body, for example maintaining healthy hair and nails.
Dietary EFAs~Because EFAs are unsaturated fats they do their work quickly in the body-but in their raw form they can go rancid quickly. As a result, these fats are commonly removed from processed foods to help extend their shelf life, so it is important to eat the right foods in order to ensure a quantity of good-quality EFAs in our diet.
Essential fatty acids are found in:
- Oily fish
Fat And Vitamins~Fats are needed in the diet for the absorption and mobilization of fat-soluble vitamins. These vitamins cannot be used by the body if fat is not included in the diet.
Vitamin D~Is needed to help absorb calcium. Low vitamin D stores may result in bone thinning and can lead to osteoporosis.
Vitamin K~Is required for blood clotting
Vitamin E~Is a vital antioxidant for the immune system
Some vitamins are found in fats and cannot be made by the body
Fat As An Energy Source~Fats are one of the three main components of the diet and of all three are the most efficient, generating almost twice as much energy per gram than either proteins or carbohydrates. Fat also constitutes the body's greatest source of stored energy.
Maintain Blood Sugar Levels~Fats provide calorie bulk to our meals, ensuring an adequate supply of energy for bodily functions and processes, and for release when necessary to maintain constant levels of sugar in the blood.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) & Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA):
Sources-Fish such as mackerel, herring and salmon
Needed For-EPA produces hormone-like substances that help to prevent rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and cancer. Western diet is often deficient.
Alpha-Linoleic Acid (ALA):
Sources-Linseed (flaxseed) oil, soybean and walnut oils
Needed For-ALA is an essential fatty acid found primarily in flaxseeds and flax oil, ALA is helpful for immune system function. The body converts a portion of ALA into two other fatty acids known as EPA and DHA
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Linoleic Acid (LA):
Sources-Corn, margarine and vegetable oils
Needed For-Improves skin and hair. It may also be partially converted to GLA in the body.
Gamma-Linoleic Acid (GLA):
Sources-High levels in evening primrose oil
Needed For-Production of hormone-like compounds that are anti-inflammatory, dilate blood vessels and reduces blood clotting. Popularly used by women suffering form PMS. Most Western diets are deficient in GLA
Arachidonic Acid (AA):
Sources-Peanut oil and meat
Needed For-Brain growth, constricting blood vessels and blood clotting