Fats similar to protein and carbohydrates are essential for bodily functions and metabolic processes to occur. Fats have been mislabeled as being bad altogether and many of us turned to replacing the fat calorie with a more destructive sugar calorie, especially when speaking of cardiovascular health. Years ago, Eskimo’s ate nothing but fat in large amounts to maintain their caloric intake and energy requirements while living in extreme cold temperatures. This population per se specifically did not have high cholesterol, yet paradoxically they had very low cholesterol levels and were not stricken with any form of cardiovascular diseases. Why is this, one may ask? Perhaps genetics may play a role but it was their high level of activity they sought, which churned out calories not only to keep them warm but also to maintain living in the extreme weather environment.
What are fats? Fats exist in every cell make up of our body namely organizing every cell wall with a phospholipid bilayer, a membranous barrier used as a means to transport particles from the outside of the cell to the inside of the cell and vice versa. This is vital to cellular metabolism and numerous other biochemical metabolic processes, which occur on a continual basis in our body.
Fats are necessary and essential since they provide our body with the essential fatty acids or better known as EFA’s. EFA’s are namely the linolenic, which is also known as Omega 3 fatty acid and Linoleic, which is also known as Omega 6 fatty acid. These fatty acids are essential meaning that the body cannot make them DE novo through synthesis pathways therefore it depends on us ingesting fats which are quality fats in order for us to be able to obtain the necessary essential nutrients. Fats like other macronutrients have very important fat soluble vitamins which much be ingested in order to sustain our health namely to support vital processes assisting in providing vision, bone, skin and teeth health. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble vitamins whereby they can only be transported and digested along with the fat we ingest. If fats are not consumed, we not only become deficient from essential fatty acids, namely the linoleic and linolenic fatty acids but we also become deficient in fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K which are both vital and integral to support and sustain numerous growth processes in our body.
So how much fat do we actually need? The RDA Recommended dietary Allowances and adequate intake has the fat percentage to be “consumed at 20-35%” and I quote. This percentage mirrors that of protein but keep in mind that there is no set percentage when partitioning fat , protein, and carbohydrates. Diets may be tailored to each individual’s specific needs as well as their caloric requirements.
Now with respect to the type of fats, fats basically exist in several forms but to keep things simple and straightforward, we will discuss foods, which contain either saturated or unsaturated fats or both. The saturated fats have been deemed as “bad fats”, “valve clogger fat” and “fat which blocks arteries” and “increases risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke”. The saturated fats are usually found in egg yolk, butter, cream, lard, coconut and palm kernel oil, and from animal foods such as red meat. Unfortunately this fat received bad reviews from numerous medical societies, governmental agencies, and world health organization all that labeled saturated fats as increasing ones risk for stroke and cardiovascular disease. A separate detailed analysis or study which looked at numerous collective studies could not find an associated risk or increased risk of Cardiovascular disease and stroke related to consumption of saturated fats.
Unsaturated fats have double bonds and are easily broken down by the body and metabolized into energy unlike saturated fats. However, unsaturated fats do not yield the same amount of energy as saturated fats. Unsaturated fats can be found in olive oil, canola oil, nuts, almonds, walnuts as well as flaxseed. Unsaturated fats typically are not stored readily, they are broken down easily and used for energy to meet metabolic demands.
Fats, no matter how much we limit our intake, the body has an amazing synthetic machinery built in which can make fat DE novo from excess carbohydrate and excess consumption of protein. We are better off over consuming fats than we are over-consuming extra carbohydrates since our body has a much more difficult time making fat from fats or fat from over-consumption of protein.
Eat fat in moderation or the body will produce it no matter how much we avoid fats or limit our fat intake. How much fat you consume should depend on your overall calorie needs and energy requirements. The dangers of becoming fat soluble vitamin deficient as well as essential fatty acid deficient is real and exists among many fad dieters. Eat healthy meals and go fitness.