Q1: Why do we need to eat fat?
Fats are essential for good nutrition because they:
Not all fats are the same and some fats are better for our health than others. Unsaturated fats are called good fats because they are needed as part of our body cells and play an important role in the management of cholesterol. ‘’Good’’ fats are typically found in vegetable oils and products made of those such as spreads, liquids and mayonnaise, nuts and seeds and fatty fish.
Some other good fats also include the essential fats. Essential fats like Linoleic acid (LA or Omega-6) and Alpha-Lenolenic acid (ALA or Omega-3) are called essential because our body cannot make them, so we need to get them from our diet. Essential fats are needed to maintain the normal functioning of the body. They also contribute to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels and are needed for normal growth and development in children. Linoleic acid is mostly available from vegetable oils and its products such as mayonnaise. Alpha-linolenic acid is present in - vegetable oils such as soybean oil and products containing these oils, walnuts and seeds.
Saturated fats (SFA) and trans fats (TFA) are often called bad fats because they have been shown to increase blood cholesterol which may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. ‘’Bad’’ fats are typically found in higher amounts in full fat dairy products, fatty meats, cakes, biscuits, savoury snacks.
Partial hydrogenation of fats results in formation of TFA, which has negative health consequences. TFA type of fat is mostly found in products like deep fried foods, cakes, pastries, cookies etc.
Q3: What are the functions of fat in our body?
Nutritionally fats are a source of energy and essential fatty acids. 1 gram of fat provides 9 kilo calories in the body and hence, considered an ‘energy dense’ nutrient. However, fats are important carriers of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E) and good fats are needed as part of our body cells and play an important role in the management of cholesterol. Essential fats (Omega 3 and Omega 6) are also needed for normal growth and development in children.
Q4: How much fat do we need to eat every day?
It is recommended that 20-35% of our daily energy should come from fat every day. At least two-thirds should be good and essential fats mainly from plants. Bad fat have shown to increase blood cholesterol (which may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases). Hence, it is important to consume the right type of fat in a diet.