Saturday, January 1, 2011

Fatty acids and your health

Fat composition in different foods. References...Image via Wikipedia
Anyone even remotely trying to eat healthy nowadays has some task of trying to decipher the terms and jargon found on food labels. Trans-fat, cholesterol, saturated fat, unsaturated fats.  It seems that the list is endless.  But, the questions are: how good or important are fatty acids to your health?

Let's take some time to examine some of the facts related to fats and their fatty acids.

What are fats?

Fats are organic compounds composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.  They are a source of energy for those who consume them. Fats provide a whopping 9 calories per gram (as opposed to protein and carbohydrates which provide only 4 calories per gram).

All fats are combinations of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids and are essential for proper functioning of the body.  Fats provide essential fatty acids which aren't produced by the body itself.

The essential fatty acids are linoleic and linoleic acid. They are important for controlling blood clotting and brain development as well as for reduction of inflammation.

What are the different types of fats?

There are four types of fats:

Saturated fats which are the biggest contributor to HDL (bad cholesterol). Because of this, the amount consumed should be no more than 10% of calories consumed. Theses fats are usually solid at room temperature.  Example: butter.

Examples are: butter, cheese, milk, ice cream and fatty meats.

Unsaturated fats lower cholesterol when used in place of saturated fats.  But, they still have quite a few calories so, it is best to limit the use of them.

Mono unsaturated fat - examples are olive oil, canola oil.

Polyunsaturated - fish, safflower, sunflower, corn and soybean oil.

Trans Fatty Acids can increase the LDL(bad cholesterol) and decrease the HDL (good cholesterol).

Examples are : donuts, french fries, cookies, crackers and margarine.

Partially hydrogenated (partly hard oils) example are butter and margarine. 

In summary

Be careful of the quantities and types of oil consumed for better health.Also, be sure to read the labels.


"Defining the four types of fats"

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