Fats get a lot of bad press, however, they are an essential part of the human diet and are required for a variety of normal body functions.
Why the body needs fats
- Fats are transporters for vitamins A, D, E, K
- They protect the vital organs such as heart and lungs from injury and also serve as insulation against cold.
- Fats are a part of all cell membranes
- They provide insulation & preserve heat
- Fats help to prolong digestion
- Provide lubrication and prevent skin dryness
- Form part of the myelin sheath that protects your nerves
- Fats are vital for hormone production and metabolism
Types of fats
The bad fats are those we refer to as Saturated and the good fats are Unsaturated. Saturation is a chemical reference to the number of carbon and hydrogen bonds found in a particular fat.
- Saturated = generally solid at room temperature. For example, red meat, cheese, butter, coconut oil, palm oil
- Unsaturated = liquid at room temperature, such as fish oils, safflower oil, olive oil, avocado oil
Trans-fatty acids / Hydrogenated oils
Trans-fatty acids are artificially manufactured fats that have been created by pumping hydrogen through liquid fats. This process alters the molecular structure of the fats and was first used to produce margarine, which has the texture of butter, but is easier to spread.
Trans-fatty acids are generally thought to improve the texture of foods and they definitely increase shelf-life, which is why they are found in many, many foods. The problem with these fats is that they increase LDL or low density lipoproteins and lower the HDL, high density lipoproteins, that are good for you.
In a nutshell, they increase your cholesterol
The Good Fats: Omega 3
Numerous studies worldwide have linked lack of omega-3 consumption – specifically DHA, docosahexaenoic acid and EPA , eicosapentaenoic acid – with depression. One study found that depression symptoms were higher among infrequent fish consumers than among those who ate fish on a regular basis. Another study indicates that omega-3 fatty acids may influence how the brain functions.
Researchers found that in healthy individuals, low plasma concentrations of DHA predicted low concentrations of brain serotonin. This decreased amount of serotonin can be associated with depression and suicide.