These days there is greater awareness about health hazards of obesity, as compared to a decade or so before. As a result, many people have resorted to measures to, “eat healthy” and exercise. But many in their zeal forget that every food substance has some benefits for the body and shunning it altogether, deprives them of its benefits. That applies to fats as well.
Fat provides maximum energy to the body, which helps one to carry out daily chores and remain active physically. Lack of fats makes one feel weak and lethargic. It gives a glow and beauty to the face. A face with chubby cheeks looks more beautiful as compared to a face with wasted cheeks. Hips and breasts in a woman are made of fat. It gives shape to hips and breasts of a woman’s body. Many women desire increase in breast size, which can simply be achieved by taking correct amount of correct fats in the diet. Warmth is provided to the body by fats.
Inside the body, fats store energy. The making, storing, metabolising and breaking of fats forms the core cycle by which energy is regulated in the body. Fat insulates vital body parts, transports proteins by binding them and act as messenger for them. It helps stockpile some essential nutrients for the body including fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. The intestines need fat to absorb some nutrients from the diet. Fats are important for various metabolic reactions in the body, which help regulate body glucose, improve immunity and help in growth. Sex hormones are also produced to some extent in body fat cells.
Thus, fat has many advantages for the body. The body cannot make it from scratch and multiply it to fulfil all needs, unless supplemented by dietary intake. People know that extra fat which is not utilised by the body is deposited and leads to weight gain. This becomes a precursor for many diseases like heart diseases, diabetes, and etcetera. But mostly, they are ignorant about the fact that any nutrient if consumed in excess, including proteins, is broken down and breakdown components are stored as fat by the body.
It is equally important to know, as to what are the fats which are good and healthy for eating. Mono unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy and beneficial for the body. They can be used regularly. These include, vegetable oils (corn, canola, olive, sunflower, and soya), fish, and nuts.
Saturated fats carry risk of obesity and heart diseases. Red meat, cheese, butter, cakes, palm oil, deep fried substances like frites, and etcetera, are examples of saturated fats, which should be taken only in moderation.
Trans-fats are prepared by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil and are the worst for health. They should be avoided to remain healthy. These include hydrogenated fats used for cooking, processed junk foods like chips, cookies, crackers, and margarine.
Ideally, freshly prepared food is always better than processed one for good health. Since the awareness about trans-fats has increased, many fast food manufacturers have started reducing the content of fat in their products and substitute it with carbohydrates. Excess of carbohydrates also adds on the calories, enhancing the risks of obesity. It also tends to alter the natural glucose metabolism and insulin production cycle of the body, which is not good.
In short, one needs fat as much as other nutrients to keep the body healthy. Good unsaturated fats should be taken more in quantity as compared to saturated fats. The amount of fats to be consumed, depends on the height and bodyweight of a person. A nutritionist can calculate the precise amount, depending on one’s age, gender, height, weight, level of physical activity and presence or absence of other morbidities like hypertension, diabetes, and etcetera.
Dr Rachna Pande,
Specialist in Internal Medicine