Why Do We Need Fats in Our Diet?

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Fat is a more concentrated source of dietary energy than carbohydrate and protein.  Fats concentrated source of energy is about 9 kcal/g (carbohydrates and proteins provide only about 4 kcal/g). Fatty acids from meat and dairy products are relatively saturated. Fatty acids from plant sources are generally more unsaturated. Then there are essential fatty acids (needed from diet) such as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s) – omega-6 (linoleic acid) and omega-3 (alpha linolenic acid) fatty acids.

  • Omega – 3 (grain, fresh fruits, veggies, fish, olive oil, garlic, wine) – help reduce inflammation, highly concentrated in the brain
  • Omega – 6 (meat based, vegetable oil) – promote inflammation

 

We need fats because of its good source of metabolic energy (carbon oxidation) and its preferred choice of energy storing (2 to 3 weeks’ storage). Fats also plays many roles in body making it essential for health and wellness. Some roles include:

  • Increased absorption of Fat-Soluble Vitamins (A, D, E, K) – Vitamin E also playing a role as antioxidant.
  • Formation of steroids such as:
  • Cholesterol, the most abundant steroid in the body, is widely distributed in all cells and serves as a major membrane component
  • Bile salts aid in the digestion of fats
  • Ergosterol, a yeast steroid, is converted to vitamin D by ultraviolet radiation
  • Adrenal cortex hormones – involved in metabolism
  • Sex hormones – testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone
  • Anti-inflammatory properties – aiding in recovery
  • Efficient energy source in long duration exercises such as marathons/triathlons.

 

Fat gets a bad rap but it is crucial for our health. It is true that fat can be harmful for our bodies if excessively consumed, especially by trans fatty acids and hydrogenated oils – think chips, donuts, fried foods, etc. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) recommends that between 20 percent and 35 percent of calories should come from dietary fat. Include a variety of different fats and oils into your diet for optimum health. Incorporate plant based fats for added benefits such as walnuts, peanuts, almonds, chia seeds, hemp seeds which promote anti-inflammatory properties.

 

 

References

Gropper S. Sareen and Smith L. Jack, Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism (7th edition)

http://www.eatrightpro.org/resource/media/press-releases/positions-and-issues/updated-academy-position-amount-and-types-of-fat-we-eat-affect-health-and-risk-of-disease

 

By Jesse Rodriguez

Jesse’s focus and emphasis is on Sports Nutrition. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science with the addition of a CSCS certification from the NSCA. Jesse swam for the El Salvador National Team and competed at the international level. Jesse has worked at USC with the Strength and Conditioning program and UCLA as the lead intern for Sports Nutrition. He is currently a dietetic intern to complete requirements for the Registered Dietitian exam and obtain his professional license. During his free time, Jesse continues to strength train, Olympic lift, and stay up-to-date on the latest nutrition trends. Lastly, Jesse is a member of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, National Strength and Conditioning Association, and Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association.

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