Nutrition 101: Dietary Fats

Fats are the most energy-dense of the three macronutrients. Dietary fats are also the last of the three major parts of your diet. Fats are probably the most overlooked macronutrient behind protein and carbs because you only need 20 percent of your diet consisting of them. Fats are made up of the same elements as carbohydrates are, but the way the atoms are linked together is different. Oils (like olive oil) are an example of fats that are liquid rather than solid.

Fats are grouped into three different categories…

  1. Simple fats
  2. Compound fats
  3. Derived fats

Fats in the body serve three basic functions…

  1. They provide the major source of stored energy. This is known as body fat. This is what we are aiming to understand more about in order to have as least as possible.
  2. They cushiona and protect major organs.
  3. They act as an insulator, preserving body heat, and protecting against cold.

Fat is also the most calorie-dense of any nutrient. A pound of fat consists of close to 3,500 calories as opposed to a pound of protein and carbohydrate which consists of about 1,800 calories. When you exercise, the body uses fats and carbs on about a 50-50 basis. But the longer you continue steady exercise, the higher percentage of fat used. Fat molecules differ chemically in their composition, being either saturated, unsaturated, or polyunsaturated. These terms simply refer to the number of hydrogren atoms that attach to the molecule. Saturated fat is like a string with a lot of tangles. Unsaturated fat is a string with only a few tangles. And polyunsatured is like a neatly coiled string with a sign of a tangle. The more saturated the fat, the more it is likely to remain in the body and clog the arteries. High saturated fat also tends to raise the cholesterol level of the blood.

Your diet must consist of all of these types of fats in order for you to develop a well-rounded and healthy diet but it is important to remember how much of each kind of fat to take in and types of healthy foods that contain these fats. For your saturated fats you don’t want to be eating candy and cookies all day.

Saturated fats are found in foods such as :

  1. beef
  2. lamb
  3. pork
  4. chicken
  5. egg yolks
  6. milk

Unsaturated fats are found in :

  1. avocados
  2. cashews (unsalted)
  3. olives and olive oil
  4. peanuts, peanut oil, peanut butter

Polyunsaturated fats are found in :

  1. almonds
  2. cottonseed oil
  3. pecans
  4. corn oil
  5. fish
  6. mayonnaise
  7. walnuts

I suggest you use the foods I have put in bold for your everyday fats, and use the unbolded foods on occasion because they are higher in calories and carbs.

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