Believe it or not, your body does need you to consume fats. The distinction you should make as a consumer is which kind and how much.
Fats, also known as lipids, are important in the body. At the cellular level, they are involved with cellular membrane function and structure and regulation of nutrients in the cells. They surround and protect internal organs, keeping them in place. Your brain also uses fat for fuel. They insulate the body from external temperature changes, as well as signal when you are full after eating.
There are three categories of lipids we consume in our diet: saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Fats are linked to cholesterol levels, which can be good or bad depending upon the type of fat at issue.
As I’m sure you have heard the two unsaturated fats are considered to be “good fats.” In case you were wondering the difference between mono and poly-unsaturated fats have to do with the chemical composition of the fatty acid: mono has one carbon bond while poly has two or more. They help to boost your “good” cholesterol (HDL) and may also help with heart disease and blood pressure. Monounsaturated fatty acids are found in olive and canola oils as well as nuts and avocados. These are naturally cholesterol free, since they are plant based, making them a winner all the way around. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are the fantastic sources of omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish such as salmon. They are also considered “essential” fatty acids, as the body does not produce them naturally and must be provided by the diet.
Saturated fatty acids are another story. They are an increased risk for heart disease and tend to raise your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. It’s found in meat, egg yolks and butter. It is generally recommended to keep these to a minimum.
A word about trans-fatty acids: avoid them. They are typically found in processed foods. Trans-fatty acids are the result of hydrogenation (adding hydrogen to unsaturated fatty acids), increasing the shelf life of the food (think preservatives). They have the same negative effects as saturated fats.
Integrating the appropriate fatty acids into your diet will help your body function like a smooth machine.
See you at the gym!