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Information About Dietary Fat

The different foods we eat contain a number fats, some good for the body and some not. It is unhealthy to exclude all fat from your diet because the body needs good fat for various functions.

It’s important to identify the good fat from the bad one so that you know what to include in your diet.

There are different types of fat, as well as sources. Dietary fat is from plant and animal foods. The body also converts excess calories to fat. Along with carbohydrates and proteins, dietary fat is used as a source of energy.

Apart from providing energy, dietary fat has many other uses in the body including: aiding in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K (fat soluble vitamins), acts as padding to organs, heat production and a source of essential fatty acids.

However, too much fat in the body can spell doom. Fat is the biggest contributor to obesity and overweight conditions. It is either directly eaten as food or may accumulate as deposits of excess calories which the body can not immediately expend. Excess fat is linked to a multitude of health problems, like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Types of dietary fat

Dietary fat is can be grouped into two categories: potentially harmful fat and useful fat. Trans fat and saturated fat are the two subtypes of potentially harmful fat while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are the other types of useful dietary fat.

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Saturated fat mainly comes from animal sources like meat. It is linked to elevated levels of blood and LDL cholesterol (low density lipoprotein), a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Trans fat is mainly found in processed food but can also be found occurring naturally in animal food sources. Trans fats in processed food are a result of unsaturated fats being partially hydrogenated while the food is processed.

Like saturated fat, trans fats are linked to LDL while decreasing the levels of HDL (high density lipoprotein), a useful type of cholesterol. Both trans fat and saturated fat are solid at room temperature, thus called solid fats.

On the other hand, monounsaturated fat is mainly found in natural foods like avocado, nuts, olives, dairy products and red meat. Monounsaturated fat decreases the levels of LDL while increasing HDL in blood, although in the latter, it is debatable as to whether the increase is to a significant level.

Polyunsaturated fat is the healthiest type of dietary fat, mainly obtained from plant and sea food e.g. fish, nuts, krill, seeds, algae, and leafy greens. Sufficient intake of dietary polyunsaturated fat consumed as whole foods has been linked to a number of health benefits, including decreasing risk of heart attacks, cardiovascular disease and a host of critical benefits to foetal development during pregnancy. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat sources are mostly liquid at room temperature.

There can be lots of confusing information about dietary fat. In any case, if you are not sure about the fat content in food (especially commercially processed food), look at the labels or consult recommended dietary guidelines for more information.

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