Fat in the diet is essential for good health. It transports vitamins, A, E, D, and K. It helps form cell membranes, oils the skin, cushions organs and provides essential acids from which necessary fats are made. Fats also function in the control of blood pressure, blood clot formation and injury and infection response. A small amount of consumed fats would facilitate these demands.

The idea is to limit excess saturated fats from our diets. These are linked to raised cholesterol levels. Animal foods carry high cholesterol that can be damaging to health. Everyday we hear about Atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, narrowing, and heart attacks. High cholesterol diets seem to link to this. Cholesterol ,a wax like substance is only available in animal products. The body makes enough without outside help. It is used for the structure of the brain and nerve cells, sex hormones, bile and with the aid of sunlight, vitamin D. But there are other health threats associated with dietary fats, not only from highly saturated but polyunsaturated as well like corn oil and soybean oil. Some are, cancer risks, blood cell clumping causing oxygen restriction to cells. Contracting of the arteries and platelets sticking together unnecessarily is another problem. A person can die suddenly if one of these clots gets stuck in the coronary arteries and it can also cause a stroke.

Fat that is not used by the body’s cells or used as energy, is stored as body fat. The same way, unused carbohydrates and proteins are also turned to body fat. Protein has to be deaminated, where the nitrogen is removed and fat is the result. Fats are high in energy. One gram has 9 kcal of energy. Both carbohydrate and protein has 4kcal each.

Fats can be classified as Saturated and Unsaturated but most fats and oils contain varying proportions of both saturated and unsaturated fats. Most saturated fats come from animal products and some plant food such as palm oil. Some foods high in saturated fats are fatty cuts of meat, meat products, including sausages and pies, butter, ghee, and lard, cheese, especially hard cheese like cheddar, cream, soured cream and ice cream, some savoury snacks, like cheese crackers and some popcorns, chocolate confectionery, biscuits, cakes, and pastries, palm oil, coconut oil and coconut cream.

Cholesterol is a waxy , fatlike substance, made generally in the liver. It is carried in the body as two lipoproteins, Low density lipoprotein (LDL) and High density lipoprotein (HDL). Eating too much saturated and processed fats in your diet can raise LDL cholesterol levels i the blood increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. HDL cholesterol has a positive impact in the body where it takes cholesterol from areas of excess, to the liver, where it is broken down. Health institutions recommend that men should not eat more than 30 grams of saturated fats daily while women should consume no more than 20grams a day.

Trans fats are found naturally at low levels in some foods, such as meat and dairy products.

They can also be found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Hydrogenated vegetable oil is processed oil where the spaces between carbon atoms are filled with hydrogen, making the oil more solid at room temperature, and highly saturated. This must be declared on a food’s ingredients list if it’s been included. Like saturated fats, trans fats can raise cholesterol levels in the blood.

Unsaturated Fats: Reducing your risk of heart disease, requires reducing your overall fat intake and changing saturated fats for unsaturated fats. There’s good evidence that replacing saturated fats with some unsaturated fats can help to lower your cholesterol level. Mostly found in oils from plants and fish, unsaturated fats can be either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.

Monounsaturated fats help protect your heart by maintaining levels of “good” HDL cholesterol while reducing levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in your blood. Monounsaturated fats are found in, olive oil, rapeseed oil and spreads made from these oils, avocados, some nuts, such as almonds, brazils, and peanuts

Polyunsaturated fats: Polyunsaturated fats can also help lower the level of “bad” LDL cholesterol in your blood.

There are 2 main types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 and omega-6. Some types of omega-3 and omega-6 fats cannot be made by your body, which means it’s essential to include small amounts of them in your diet. Omega-6 fats are found in vegetable oils, such as, rapeseed, corn, sunflower, some nuts

Omega-3 fats are found in oily fish, such as, kippers, herring, trout, mackerel, salmon and sardines. Most people get enough omega-6 in their diet, but it’s recommended to have more omega-3 by eating at least 2 portions of fish each week, with 1 portion being an oily fish. Too much omega 6 is thought to raise the inflammatory response in the body while omega 3 reverses the effect. Vegetable sources of omega-3 fats are not thought to have the same benefits on heart health as those found in fish.

Checking Labels.

The nutrition labels on food packaging can help you cut down on total fat and saturated fat (also listed as “saturates”, or “sat fat”). Nutrition information can be shown in different ways on the front and back of packaging.

Total fat

  • high fat – more than 17.5g of fat per 100g
  • low fat – 3g of fat or less per 100g, or 1.5g of fat per 100ml for liquids (1.8g of fat per 100ml for semi-skimmed milk)
  • fat-free – 0.5g of fat or less per 100g or 100ml

Saturated fat

  • high in sat fat – more than 5g of saturates per 100g
  • low in sat fat – 1.5g of saturates or less per 100g or 0.75g per 100ml for liquids
  • sat fat-free – 0.1g of saturates per 100g or 100ml

“Lower fat” labels

For a product to be labelled lower fat, reduced fat, lite or light, it must contain at least 30% less fat than a similar product. But if the type of food in question is usually high in fat, the lower fat version may still be a high-fat food (17.5g or more of fat per 100g). For example, a lower fat mayonnaise may contain 30% less fat than the standard version, but it’s still high in fat.

Also, foods that are lower in fat are not necessarily lower in calories. Sometimes the fat is replaced with sugar and the food may end up having a similar energy content to the regular version. To be sure of the fat and energy content, remember to check the nutrition label on the pack. We must remember that cutting down on fat is only one aspect of achieving a healthy diet.

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