Understanding Fats in Food

Understanding Fats in Food


  • Fats are a common component of many foods. Fats are also called ‘Fatty acid’ or ‘lipids. Fats in our body are made up of three molecules joined together. This three-molecule structure is called a “triglyceride’.
  • Most of the fat we need is made by our bodies, but there are some fats our bodies cannot make.
  • Fats are a type of nutrient that we get from our food. It is essential to eat some fats, through it is also harmful eat too much.
  • The fats we eat give our body energy that it needs to work properly.

Functions of fats:

Energy Source: Fats are concentrated source of energy, providing more than twice the energy(calorie) per gram compared to carbohydrates and protein. They serve as a reserve energy source for the body.

Nutrient Absorption: Fats are necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). These vitamins are essential for various bodily functions, including bone health, vision, and immune system support.

Cell Membranes: Fats, particularly phospholipids, are integral components of cell membranes. They help maintain cell structure, regulate what enters and exit cells, and facilitate cellular communication.

Protection of Organs: Adipose tissue, which consists of stored fat, acts as a cushion and insultation, protecting vital organs and helping maintain body temperature.

Hormone Production: Fats are involved in the production of hormones. For example, cholesterol, a type of fat, is a precursor to steroid hormones like estrogen, pro progesterone, and testosterone.

Brain Health: The brain is composed of about 60% fat. Dietary fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, are crucial for brain development, function, and cognitive health.

Skin and hair health: Fats help maintain healthy skin and hair. They contribute to moisture and elasticity in the skin.

Inflammation Regulation: Some fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce inflammation in the body.

Disadvantages of fat:

Weight gain: High-fat diets, especially those high in saturated and trans fats, can contribute to weight gain and obesity if calorie intake exceeds expenditure. Fat is calorie-dense, providing more calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein.

Cardiovascular Health: Excessive consumption of saturated and trans fats can raise levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. It can also contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, a condition in which arteries become clogged with fatty deposits.

Chronic Diseases: A diet high in unhealthy fats is linked to an increased risks of chronic health conditions, including heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.

Digestive Issues: Very high-fat meals, particularly those high in saturated and trans fats, can lead to digestive discomfort, including indigestion and diarrhea, as fats can be harder to digest for some individuals.

Inflammation: Some types of fats, especially saturated fats, can promote inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is associated with a range of health issues, including autoimmune disease and certain chronic conditions.

Metabolic Syndrome: Excessive fat intake, particularly unhealthy fats, can contribute to metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess abdominal fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels.

Liver Disease: High-fat diets can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), where excess fat accumulates in the liver, potentially leading to liver damage.

Weight-related Health Conditions: Excess body fat can increase the risk of various health conditions, such as sleep apnea, joint problems, and fertility issues.

Amount of fat consumption per day:

  • Men should have less than 30g of saturated fat per day
  • Women should have less than 20g of saturated fat per day
  • Children should have less trans fat and saturated fat per day

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