Dietary fat, also known as fatty acids, can be found in foods from both plants and animals. Certain fats have been linked to negative effects on heart health, but others have been found to offer significant health benefits.

Fat is as essential to your diet as protein and carbohydrates are in fueling your body with energy. Certain bodily functions also rely on the presence of fat. For example, some vitamins require fat in order to dissolve into your bloodstream and provide nutrients. It is important to remember that it isn't just the quantity of fat consumed but the kind of fat consumed that also affects the health.

Fatty acids are vital nutrients as proteins and carbohydrates for the human body.

  • Fat is a rich source of energy; 1 gram provides 37 kJ (9 kcal).
  • Fats are also essential for absorbing fat soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K.
  • They are also needed to build cell membranes and nerve sheaths. It is also essential as a protective cushion for major organs like the brain, heart, nerves, and bones.
  • Fats are also essential for blood clotting, immunity, muscle movement, inflammation and production of hormones.
  • They are also important for cognitive development, vision, and cardiovascular health, maintaining body temperature and weight control.

Molecular structure of different fats lead to differences in functions. Nutritionists and dieticians suggest a low fat diet. This is true for the most part, as the modern urban diet consists of high concentrations of trans and saturated fat. Trans fat is supposed to be avoided and moderation is required in case of consuming food containing saturated fat. However, even with the multitude of low fat options available now; obesity rates and risks associated with it are on the rise. This clearly suggests replacement of “bad fats” with “good fat” in the diet. Excess energy stored at fat leads to obesity which leads to cardiovascular diseases, type 2-diabetes and also might cause cancer. High intake of saturated fats and trans fat increase Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol (Bad Cholesterol) but good fat reduces LDL Cholesterol and increases High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol (Good Cholesterol). However, Good fats such as omega 3-fatty acids promote good cognitive and cardiovascular health; and also reduce risks of cancer.

It is thus generally recommended to:

  • Avoid trans fat
  • Moderate saturated fat intake to about 10% of calories per day
  • Incorporate monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat in diet
  • The UN FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) and WHO (World Health Organization) recommend 10-30% of daily energy requirement to be met by fat intake.

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