What is fat?

what is fat

Fat constantly gets a lot of bad press but there is such a thing as GOOD FAT.

Fat is simply a nutrient – just like vitamins and minerals, your body needs fat to survive. Fat is what supplies the body with energy as well as enabling other nutrients to work the way they are supposed to. While fat is necessary, however, it is the one nutrient that we need only in small amounts and overdoing it can result in the fat we end up wearing around our waist.

There isn't just one kind of fat, either. There are several types of fats, some healthier than others. Some fats are actually good for you in moderation while some are unhealthy in any amount. The categories of fats are saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and trans fat.

Saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated or trans fats

Saturated fat simply means that each molecule of fat is saturated or covered with hydrogen atoms. While this fat isn't the worst of the fats, it also isn't something that should be consumed in large amounts, particularly on a regular basis as the main source of saturated fat is animal products which means there is also a lot of cholesterol. Too much cholesterol in the blood will lead to cardiovascular problems, even strokes.

Monounsaturated fats have molecules that only have room for one hydrogen atom. This is at least a neutral fat and some experts have said that this type of fat is actually good for you and can reduce your risk of heart disease. Olives, ground nut oil and avocados are rich sources of monounsaturated fat.

Polyunsaturated fat is kind of a cross between the saturated fat and the monounsaturated fat – the molecules have multiple hydrogen atoms but are not fully surrounded by them. These are the good fats that you've probably heard about. Extensive studies have shown that polyunsaturated fat actually protects the heart, lowers cholesterol and may even help with joint disease. Polyunsaturated fat is found in oily fish like salmon and herring, safflower oil, grapeseed oil and sunflower oil. In particular, the Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish are very healthy in moderation.

Trans fats are the worst type of fat and should be avoided altogether if at all possible. Trans fats are not a naturally occurring fat like the other types of fat. They are created when food makers add hydrogen to liquid vegetable oil to make them more solid, like with shortening. Trans fat can actually be either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated but with none of the good points of those other fats. Trans fats raise your bad cholesterol levels and lower your good cholesterol levels, greatly increasing your risks of heart attack and stroke. These fats are usually found in fried foods, particularly at restaurants, many of the baked goods you can buy at the grocery store and margarines.

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