Fats – are complex molecules that are made up of fatty acids and glycerol. Fats are described as the slowest source of energy from food, but it is also the most efficient form because the body can store abundant supply from different sources of foods we eat. However, because of the devastating effects on the excess amount of fat the body stores, it is very important to understand how much the body can on a daily basis.

Like Carbohydrates and Proteins, Fats play an important role in the body’s growth, development and maintenance. For example, fats are important sources of calories and nutrients for infants and toddlers to support their growth and development. Fats in the diet can easily provide you with the feeling of fullness and they also provides taste to foods. However, too much intake of fat can have health consequences because fats contain high calories and too much consumption of fats can contribute to weight gain leading to obesity. This is because the calorie (energy) content in one (1) gram of Fat is nine (9) calories.

The main function of fats is to produce materials to make cell membranes, carry fat-soluble vitamins to work, protect the body’s vital organs such as the kidneys from shock and trauma, insulate the body to maintain temperature.

Classifications of Fats:

  • saturated fats – are mostly solid at room temperature. Examples are animal meat, butter, palm oil, coconut oil, dairy products, processed meats and pre-packaged snacks such as pastries.
  • unsaturated fats – are typically liquid at room temperature. Examples are canola oil and olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.

Saturated Fats – are responsible for raising the bad cholesterol called Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL) – the bad cholesterol. First thing is avoid those “greasy” meats (pork and fatty beef), and greasy oils (such as lard and butter).

There have been studies done on the direct link between saturated fats and heart disease. We need to be aware that increased consumption of foods high in saturated fats can increase the risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that our daily intake of foods should only consist of less than 5% coming from saturated fats. While the recommended Dietary Guidelines for Americans is 10% of daily calories from fat. So how should we do it? For example, a person eats 2,000 calories per day, they should not consume more than 200 calories from foods that are of saturated fat source. 

Unsaturated Fats – These types of fats are normally liquid at room, refrigerated, and freezing temperatures. They come from a variety food sources. Unsaturated fats are also classified in two classes:

  • monounsaturated fats – found in olive and avocado oil
  • polyunsaturated fats – found in walnuts, flax seeds, salmon and tuna.

Monounsaturated fats are found to be most helpful in lowering our risk of heart disease and thus, prevent premature death. While Polyunsaturated fats are for brain function, muscle function, blood and heart health.

As mentioned, fat carries the most amount of calories in the three (3) major macronutrient food groups. Regardless of whether it is from unsaturated or saturated fats – consuming more than what the body needs, it can lead to health problems, such as obesity. However, if you consume fats choose those that are from unsaturated fat sources and yet know your limits. The most important thing to remember is that if you are trying to lower your fats in the blood, it is a healthy practice to choose those foods that are lower in saturated fats. For expert guidance, contact your Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

Ofelia B. Mutia, MS.,RDN.,LD.