Ever since I decided to lose weight, the very first thing I thought of doing was to reduce the intake of fats in my diet. And going by my gut feel, the opinions of some of fitness-freak friends, and by my enthusiasm to shed at least a reasonable amount of pounds, I took extra care to see to it that no amount of fat formed a part of my food.
But by completely ignoring fats in my daily diet intake, I realized that I had actually lost out on most of the benefits and instead of being in good shape, I went low on energy levels, felt weak and tired too often and my levels of stamina decreased.
Expert nutritioninsts agree that one cannot avoid fats altogether as fats are an essential part of a person’s daily requirement, hence, what matters is the "type of fat" you consume. While the bad fats are unhealthy and must be avoided, the good fats are essential to one's daily dietary requirement..
Because, doing this can be more harmful for the system. And moreover you can’t run away from fats, because almost all foods contain some fat. Even the quintessential fat-free foods like carrots and lettuce contain small amounts of this nutrient. Now isn’t this a testament to how important fats are for life?
Energy: It is wrong to associate fats only with ‘weight gain’. You would be surprised to know that fats provide great amount of energy and also make for a great depot for storage of energy which can be of tremendous help when you go too long without food or in cases of any illness. It is an important part of cell membranes, helping govern what gets into the cells and what comes out.
Other crucial benefits: The body uses cholesterol as the starting point to make estrogen, testosterone, vitamin D, and other vital compounds. Fats are also known to be biologically active molecules that can influence the way muscles respond to insulin's "open up for sugar" signal.
Including certain fats in your diet can promote health of your heart, can optimize brain and cellular function, and can help in protecting your organs, bones and joints.
Fats are not all bad by themselves, there is a good side to them as well, and in common parlance these are called, Good Fats. The ‘bad’ fats, on the other hand, include saturated fats, LDL and trans fats and all these increase the risk for various diseases. Hence, the key to a healthy you, lies not in totally avoiding fats - that you cannot do - instead in opting for ‘good’ fats, which include, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and actually help the system by lowering the risk of many diseases. The key to a healthy diet is to substitute good fats for bad fats - and to avoid Trans fats. Most of the fat in your diet should come from food sources that contain good fats.
- Let us know more about the “goodness” of “good” fats,
These are three parts which when combined together make up for the whole entity called as – good fats’. These are unsaturated fats, High-density lipoproteins and essential fatty acids.
These are called good fats because they can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms, and play a number of other beneficial roles. Unsaturated fats are predominantly found in plant foods, such as vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. They are liquid at room temperature.
These are further divided into two -
Your health and the health of your heart depend upon the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) in your body. And Monounsaturated fats precisely help in lowering the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL) while raising the level of good cholesterol (HDL). Moreover, these fats help prevent oxidation - a process in which plaque gets buildup in the blood.
Sources: Canola oil, peanut oil and olive oil. Avocados, almonds, hazelnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds also provide monounsaturated fats.
These are the subtype of unsaturated fats and help mainly in the preventing the process of oxidation - in which plaque gets buildup in the blood - in the circulatory system, thereby preventing the occurrence of heart diseases.
Sources: Use sunflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil or flax seed oil for cooking as all of these contain polyunsaturated fats. Using the right kinds of cooking oils is the key.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL)
In simple language, HDL mainly acts as a garbage truck of the bloodstream, wherein its role is to scavenge cholesterol from the bloodstream, from LDL, and from artery walls and ferry it back to the liver for disposal. It is not the cholesterol you eat that matters; it's the cholesterol levels in your blood that count when it comes to weight control and maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. And you can benefit hugely, if you higher the level of HDL in your body, so as to better your chances of preventing heart disease and other chronic conditions.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs)
As the name suggests, this is a branch of good fats, that are essential to the body, and which humans cannot synthesize, and must be obtained through diet. In scientific terms, these are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from linolenic, linoleic and oleic acids.
There are two main types of EFAs: Omega-3 and Omega-6. The reason we did not include Omega 9 with the other two is that, a modest amount of Omega-9 is can be manufactured by the body on its own, provided the former two essential EFAs are present.
EFAs support the main body systems including - cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems. Our body needs EFAs to manufacture and repair cell membranes, to enable cells to obtain optimum nutrition and expel harmful waste products. EFAs also help in the regulation of body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood clotting, conception, and regulate inflammation and fight infections. Essential Fatty Acids are also needed for proper growth in children, particularly for neural development and maturation of sensory systems. Fetuses and breast-fed infants also require an adequate supply of EFAs through the mother's dietary intake.
Your body cannot manufacture omega 3 fats, hence, you must eat them. Good sources of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats include seafood, walnuts, flax seeds, wheat germ, canola and soybeans. The American Heart Association recommends that you eat fish at least twice each week in order to maintain optimum levels of omega 3 fats in your body. Omega-6 fatty acids are also found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. The American Heart Association states that people should consume 5 to 10 percent of their total calories from omega-6 fatty acids.
- How much is not too much?
Guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Program recommend the following levels as desirable or optimal for the average adult over age 20:
- Total cholesterol less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
- LDL cholesterol less than 100 mg/dL
- HDL cholesterol greater than 40 mg/dL (a level above 60 mg/dL is considered to be protective against cardiovascular disease)
- Triglycerides less than 150 mg/dL
Note that these are general targets. For total and LDL cholesterol, lower is better. In fact, for people with heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease, experts recommend aiming for an LDL under 70 mg/dL. For HDL, higher is better, with levels above 60 mg/dL offering extra protection against cardiovascular disease. (Source – Harvard School of Public health)
The best sources of “Good Fats”
- Olive oil, Flaxseed oil
- Natural peanut butter
There are certain fats that your body does not manufacture and these must come from the food you eat. When you eat too much fat, including healthy fat, your body cannot process the excess. It builds up in the body causing unhealthy weight gain, plaque build up in the blood and a slowed metabolism. Include healthy fats in your diet but in moderate amounts.
So, Choose Good fats, limit Bad fats, and never turn Fat!