Nutrition Facts: Fats
You should realize the importance of fat in your diet. fat is not always a villain, responsible for clogging arteries and packing pounds. To an athlete, fat acts as a secondary source of energy during training or competition. Fat-based energy becomes available soon after carbohydrate stores in the muscles deplete.
Fats can be found in solid or liquid form and are often referred to as lipids. Even though carbohydrates are your body’s major source of energy, fats are the most highly concentrated source of energy, over carbohydrates and proteins. Fats have nine calories per gram while carbohydrates and proteins contain only four, so it is easy to see why foods high in fat are also high in calories.
There are a lot of reasons why our bodies need fat. Fat acts as the storage system for excess calories that you consume, whether from dietary fat, carbohydrates and/or proteins. Fat is an essential ingredient for healthy skin and hair, and acts as a carrying agent in the transportation of fat-soluble vitamins A,D,E and K. Dietary fat provides us with essential acids, which the body does not manufacture. Essential fatty acids aid in many bodily functions, including the regulation of blood pressure. Fat also helps to regulate cholesterol in your blood. In addition, fats provide satiety because they increase the time needed to empty food from the stomach.
While fat is necessary and essential for proper health, some types of fats can damage the cardiovascular system. Artery-clogging fats that increase blood cholesterol include saturated fat and trans fat. Saturated fat comes mainly from animal sources like meat and dairy products, but it can also be found in coconut and palm oils. Trans fats comes from hydrogenated vegetable oils like margarine and vegetable shortening. Both saturated fats and trans fats stay solid at room temperature.
A more heart-healthy fat is unsaturated fat, generally found in vegetables. This type of fat includes both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated fat is found in olive, canola and peanut oils. These oils are liquid at room temperature but start to thicken when refrigerated. This type of fats are considered the healthiest for your heart and body. Avocados and nuts also contain monounsaturated fat. Polyunsaturated fat is found in soybean, corn, safflower and sunflower oils. These oils are liquid at room temperature and in the refrigerator. This type of fat is considered the next healthiest fat that does not clog arteries.
When unsaturated vegetable oils are manufactured into solid form, they turn into trans fats. This typo of fat is commonly called fully or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in a food’s list of ingredients. Trans fats are found in hundreds of processed foods, usually to protect against spoiling and to enhance flavor. Restaurants tend to use a lot of trans fat, especially for frying.
Trans fats are even worse than saturated fats for the cardiovascular system. Researchers have conservatively calculated that trans fats alone account for at least 30,000 premature deaths from heart disease every year in the United States. Recent studies indicate that trans fats drive up the body’s LDL (bad cholesterol), even faster than saturated fats. High levels of cholesterol have been linked to heart disease and stroke.
Diets high in fat, particularly saturated fat, may also promote breast, colon, endometrial, lung, prostate and rectal cancers. Therefore, saturated fats and trans fats are the only fats that we should strive to eliminate from our diet. Replace this fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The American Heart Association recommends that daily fat intake should be less than 30 percent of total calories; saturated fat intake less than 8 to 10 percent of total calories, and cholesterol less than 300 milligrams per day. Always read the Nutrition Facts label and list of ingredients to find out the amount of, and the type of, fat contain in any particular food.
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