Fact From Fiction: What is Fat and Why we Need It

As humans, we have a complicated relationship with fat. When children have some fat on their bones, we state that it is cute. However, as we get older our opinion of fat starts to shift and we see it as a negative thing.  Some of us go to the extent of trying to get rid of our body fat using diets and supplements like lean bean.

If you were to ask someone what fat really was, more likely than not they wouldn’t be able to tell you. All that most of us know is that there is a negative association with fat due to the health risks that accumulating fat can lead to.  For the most part, we feel obligated to try and avoid fat in our diets.   

The issue is because many of us don’t understand what fat really is, we don’t know how to properly integrate it into our diet. This is completely understandable, as the basic education that we get when it comes to fat is based entirely on the negative education that we received when learning about what we put into our bodies at a young age.  All that we really have is speculation and hearsay about what fat is and how it impacts your body. Here is a breakdown of what fat is and why we need it.  

What is fat? 

Fat is one of the three main nutrient types that can be found in food. The three groups are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. The body uses fat as a fuel source and fat is the main energy source that is stored within the body.  There are several forms of fats, which is why there is always so much confusion surrounding whether or not fat is good for you. Different fats affect the body in different ways, so some are good for the body while others are not. Here are the different types of fat.  

 

Saturated Fat 

You are able to recognize saturated fats in their standard state due to the fact it becomes solid at room temperature, which is why it can sometimes be referred to as solid fat. This kind of fat is most commonly sourced in animal products like meat, cheese, and milk. It can also be found in poultry and fish products, but not in high amounts. 

Something that you may not know is that tropical oils also contain saturated fats.  If you are not familiar with what tropical oils are, these are things like coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter. These are sold separately but are mainly used in sweets and snacks.   

Saturated fats are the fats that you should try and avoid as saturated fats can raise your cholesterol, which can lead to heart problems. However,  this does not mean that you have to completely avoid saturated fats altogether, it simply means that you have to be careful with overconsumption as you don’t want to damage the most vital organ in your body.  

Trans Fat 

Trans fat is a type of fat that has been altered through a process known as hydrogenation. This process is done in order to increase the shelf life of the fat. Though trans fats can be created through the process of hydrogenation, they can also be found naturally within some animal-based foods.  Much like saturated fat, trans fats can raise your cholesterol. For this reason, it is important that you try to avoid consuming trans fats as much as possible, as raising your cholesterol can lead to you developing dangerous conditions such as heart disease and other cardiac disorders.  

Once again, it is not recommended that you cut out trans fats completely, but you should limit yourself on how much you are eating for the sake of your health, as is the case with all foods.  

Unsaturated fat 

Unsaturated fats are usually found in oils that can be sourced from plants. If you are someone that has been suffering from high cholesterol levels, then eating unsaturated fats can actually help to improve your cholesterol levels. Something that you may not know is that there are several types of unsaturated fats. 

 

 

Monounsaturated Fat

If you are someone that suffers from high cholesterol, then at some point your doctor may have recommended that you eat monounsaturated fat. This particular type of fat can be found in foods like avocados, nuts, olives, and peanuts. Though monounsaturated fat has been shown to lower your cholesterol, it will not work if you are still eating a high level of saturated fat. 

Polyunsaturated Fat

This is the kind of fat that you find more commonly in oils and fatty fish, like anchovies, herring, and sardines. Much like monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat has been known to help combat high cholesterol. So if you are someone that has high cholesterol, then you should look to changing to these fats.  

 

How does our body use fats? 

A Source of energy 

The main way in which our bodies use fat is for fuel. The body operates by burning calories and fats as a means to maintain energy. This is why people often feel exhausted or unwell if they have not eaten for an extended period of time. When trying to find fuel, our bodies will burn through several sources of nutrients in our bodies. Fat is the main fuel source as it burns quickly and the body stores it for an extended period of time.  Without fat, we may not be able to do the daily tasks that we are required to do, so fat is an essential part of the body.  

Storage of energy 

As well as being a great source of energy, we can use fat to store energy. Our bodies are extremely clever and so when we digest more calories than we need to, then all of the leftover calories will be stored. The calories that we do not need are stored in the fat deposits that are then accessed when we need an immediate source of energy.  

Our body needs fatty acids 

The reason that fatty products have not been abolished from sales entirely is that our bodies need them in order to complete essential progression. In order for the growth and development of our cells to occur, we need to digest fats. This is something that our body does not naturally produce and so we need to find external sources for it.  To complete basic functions, we also need fatty acids as a quick energy resource.  

Maintaining healthy skin 

Something that you may not know is that fat consumption is essential when it comes to maintaining healthy skin. Your entire body is made up of cells and in order for your cells to be healthy, they need to contain a certain level of fat. This is because the fat is needed for the cell membrane, which controls what goes in and out of the cells. Someone who is not getting enough fat in their diet can suffer from dull skin and the skin may even take longer to heal if inflicted with an injury of some sort. It is also reported that people who do not digest enough fat may gain wrinkles earlier and easier than those who do.  

 

Brain and nerve function  

Something that you may not know is that the fatty materials found within fat can be used to improve the function of our brain and nerves. This occurs because a fatty material that is produced by fat wraps around our nerve cells. Doing this makes it so that our nerves can send messages to our brains to alert the brain of any feelings or pains. Without the fatty material, our cells would not be able to do this, so it is essential that we take the time to consume the correct fats when we can.  

A mistake that people often make when trying to lose weight is cutting out fat altogether. Once again, this is because of a lack of understanding of what fat does for your body, along with all of the negative associations that come with the word ‘fat’. This can lead to issues during the weight loss process and can cause people to struggle to complete everyday tasks.  

Fat is not only an essential part of your diet because of the benefits that your body experiences from the digestion of fat, it is also because fat encourages the body to engage with more nutrients that the body needs.  Fat helps you absorb vitamin A, vitamin D, and even vitamin E. These are things that the body does not make in high enough quantities and so without fat our bodies would not be able to digest these much-needed nutrients, so fat is essentially responsible for helping our body function properly.  

Something that should be noted is even though some fats are healthy, no fats should be eaten excessively as they do have some health risks that come with overconsumption.