Fats are an essential part of human diets. Fat enriches the taste of food and helps with the absorption of vitamins. Next to that, it helps our body to open cells, since fat cells are similar to the structure of human cells. However, consuming too much fat, even healthy fats, can result in weight gain.
Healthy or unhealthy fats?
Fats can be classified in three different types: unsaturated, saturated and trans fats. There are different sources for humans to gather them from.
Source: plant based, such as vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.
- they are liquid at room temperature
- they can improve blood cholesterol
- they ease inflammation
- they can stabilize the heart rhythm
Unsaturated fats can further be divided in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Sources of monounsaturated fats:
- Olive, peanut, and canola oils
- Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts and pecans)
- Seeds (such as pumpkin and sesame seeds)
Sources of polyunsaturated fats:
- Sunflower, corn, soybean, and flax seed oils
- Flax seeds (omega-3)
- Fish (omega-3)
Omega-3 fats are part of the polyunsaturated fats. The human body is unable to produce omega-3 fats so it is important for us to consume products that contain omega-3 fats.
Sources of saturated fats:
- Mainly in animal based food
- Manufactured food, for example ice cream, pizza, cheese, candy and fast food.
- Some plant based foods are also high in saturated fats. For example coconut, coconut oil and palm oil
Trans fats, trans fatty acids, are created when liquid vegetable oils are heated up with hydrogen gas. Four our heart and blood vessels trans fats are the worst type of fats.
Sources of trans fats are:
- Margarine or shortening
- Fried fast foods
- Baked goods
- Processed snacks
- In small amounts found in beef fat and dairy fat
Conclusion for diet
Less saturated and trans fats and a balanced amount of unsaturated fats.
The lie of light products - fat as taste enricher
Fat helps to transport taste and is heavily used by the industry, for example in crisps or candies. On the other hand, the industry wants to support us in a healthy life style and therefore creates ‘light’ products that are reduced in fat, but taste the same as the original ‘fatty version’. But how is that possible? Taste can be enriched by using three basic ingredients: fat, sugar and salt. So if the industry reduces one, in this case fat, it is likely that more sugar and/or salt is used in the light products. This however, makes the ‘light version’ not necessarily low in calories or healthier. A too extensive salt intake increases the water kept in your body, resulting in high blood pressure and is ultimately harmful for your heart. A high sugar intake can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of heart disease.
So now that you know more about fat and what it is all about I hope that you will think about it more often when you order food online, do groceries or just have a snack.