You usually only hear about fat in connection with someone wanting to lose it. But what really is fat? From saturated fat to fatty acids, here is what you need to know about fat.
What Is Fat?At the basic level, fat is your body’s fuel reserve - whenever you eat more calories than you burn, your body will turn the excess into fat. When you eat fewer calories, it will turn the reserves into energy.Fat also is your energy source for low maintenance tasks like reading this text (that is, if you aren't reading it while running or weightlifting, but I assume that most of my readers sit down to read what I wrote) and plays an important role in making some things inside your body work. To name but one, some vitamins (A, D, E and K) couldn't do their job if fat wasn't around.Out of the three nutrients that deliver energy to your body (fat, carbohydrates and protein), fat has the most calories: 9 per gram.
Saturated Vs. UnsaturatedChemically speaking, fat consists of triglycerides, glycerol and fatty acids. The first two are only really of interest to the scientists among us, so let's concentrate on the fatty acids. When you hear people talking about "saturated" or "unsaturated" fats, they in fact are talking about these two:
- Saturated fatty acids you find in food from animal sources (milk, meat etc.) and due to their chemical makeup stay solid at room temperature. Their main purpose is providing thebody with energy, but unfortunately also influence the "bad" LDL cholesterol level, which can lead to an increase in heart disease and related illnesses.
- Unsaturated fatty acids are often found in plant sources and stay liquid at room temperature. Instead of increasing the "bad" cholesterol, they aid the "good" HDL cholesterol.
Mono- And Polyunsaturated FatWhat you probably already have taken away from this is that it usually is a good idea to eat fat that is liquid at room temperature.Yet once you wrapped your head around that and head over to the supermarket to buy some of the goodness in form of olive or safflower oil, you find yourself assaulted with the next terms: mono- and polyunsaturated fats.These get their name from a difference in their "hydrogen bonds," but what you should really remember about them comes down to polyunsaturated fats spoiling more easily, even when refrigerated, and that they come with high amounts of...
Essential Fatty AcidsThe "essential" in the name of essential fatty acids already gives away what they are about: they are essential for your health, yet the body mostly can't build them itself. There are two of them:
- Omega-3, which in small quantities the human body can produce itself, and help organs and cells in your body to function properly, support oxygen circulation and aid red blood cells in their functioning. They may also reduce inflammation and lower the risk of chronic diseases like cancer and arthritis.
- Omega-6 the body can't build at all. They take part in hair and skin growth, and, like their Omega-3 relatives, help against cancer and arthritis, lower blood pressure and many more. Contrary to Omega-3, most people do get enough Omega-6 from their nutrition.