Fat is essential for the body to use vitamins such as A, D, E and K, for example. There are types of fat that increase the risk of a heart attack, others lower it. Read here what the difference between unsaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids is and why we need fat.
Fat is irreplaceable. The nutrient, together with carbohydrates and protein, forms the basis of our diet. Fat provides the most energy per quantity – around nine kilocalories per gram. However, not all fat is created equal. A distinction is made between good and bad fats from a nutritional point of view.
At a glance:
Function and effect of fat
As a nutrient, fat performs some vital functions in the body. The most important are:
- Fat is the most potent energy supplier, indispensable for everyone who works physically or engages in competitive sports.
- Fat is important in building cell membranes.
- Fat helps to produce certain hormones and messenger substances, such as testosterone. Studies show that people with very low blood fat levels are prone to depression.
- Fat stores heat for the body and protects organs that are sensitive to cold, such as the kidneys.
- Without fat, the body cannot utilize the so-called fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
- Fat is a flavor carrier and helps to achieve satiety quickly.
Every type of fat fulfills these functions. From a nutritional point of view, however, scientists distinguish three forms of fat in our food.
Saturated and unsaturated fatty acids
The easiest way to divide the different fats in foods is according to their origin – vegetable or animal. The former include oil from olives or rapeseed. Animal fats are in cream, butter, cheese, milk fat, and meat. The individual fatty acids within the fats are:
Saturated fat are mostly found in foods of animal origin, i.e. in meat and dairy products. Too much of this type of fat increases the unfavorable LDL cholesterol in the blood. This increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
Monounsaturated fatty acids come from plants contained in vegetable oils such as olive oil. These fatty acids can keep the cholesterol level in a healthy balance, thus lowering the LDL cholesterol and increasing the cheap HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is said to protect the cells, make the blood vessels supple and have a positive effect on the blood flow.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are considered to be particularly valuable for health. While the other two types of fat can be produced by the body itself, the polyunsaturated fatty acids must be supplied from outside. That is why they are called essential fatty acids. They are mainly found in plants, but also in fish. They are subdivided again according to their chemical structure, but with one exception have a similarly positive effect on the blood fat level as monounsaturated fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 and omega-7
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are divided as follows:
Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are found in fatty cold water fish, such as mackerel, salmon and tuna, as well as alpha linolenic acid in vegetable oils and nuts. They should protect against heart attacks and strokes and keep the blood vessels free from pathogenic changes.
Omega-6 fatty acids are contained as linoleic acid in vegetable oils and arachidonic acid in meat, butter and egg yolk. This form of fat is considered a messenger substance that fuels inflammation in the body. Vegetable oils with a high proportion of omega-6 fatty acids (for example sunflower oil) are therefore less favorable for people who have inflammatory rheumatism, for example.
Omega-7 fatty acids like palmitoleic acid, on the other hand, are said to inhibit inflammatory processes. Nuts in particular are ideal sources.
However, the daily diet should only consist of small parts of these healthy fats. Fish twice a week is ideal, and good rapeseed oil is recommended for preparing the dishes. The latter can even prevent micro-inflammation, which is often the cause of organ disorders and even wrinkles.
Unsaturated fatty acids: a balanced diet makes sense
Healthy people should eat fat in moderation, taking care to consume various fats and oils. For adults, it is recommended that 30 percent of the total energy absorbed (i.e. calories!) Is absorbed through fats. A good mixture of vegetable oils makes sense. Because if you only use sunflower or safflower oil, for example, you consume too many omega-6 fatty acids, which can even promote inflammation over the long term.
In contrast, linseed oil, rapeseed oil and olive oil have anti-inflammatory effects. They also lower the risk of arteriosclerosis.
Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by www.lifeline.de.
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