Can fats be healthful? The solution is “yes”. Fats are one of three vital nutrients that act as a power source by our own body. Each gram of fat generates at least 9 calories of energy. Fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E, and K can be absorbed by the body only in the presence of fats. Fats behave as energy reserve and enable us to withstand long hours of starvation. Additionally it is an important part of the cell membrane.
Removing fats completely out of our diet is not a good idea. The choice of fats needs to be made wisely. The overall fat intake is made up of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats together. Studies have proved that ingestion of mono and polyunsaturated fats helps to decrease the amount of blood cholesterol.
Saturated and Unsaturated Fats
Structurally, a saturated fat is fully saturated with hydrogen atoms and none of the carbon atoms are connected with double bonds. Saturated fats are solids at room temperature and are often found in animal products. Some of the most prevalent sources of the chemically least active fats are dairy products, meats, pork etc.. Processed foods such as chips, pastries, ice-creams etc also demonstrate a very large concentration of saturated fats. These fats aren’t favorable to heart, as they raise the concentration of low density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol) in the blood resulting in heart diseases.
Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, have one or more double bonds between their carbon atoms. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are also called oils. Fats that have single double bond between the carbon atoms are termed as monounsaturated fats, by way of instance, 18-carbon oleic acid. Fats that have more than one double bond between their carbon atoms are known are polyunsaturated fats, by way of instance, linoleic, linolenic and arachidonic acids. Prevalent sources of unsaturated fats are vegetable oils extracted from sunflower, safflower, soy bean, cotton seed, corn etc.. Apart from these whole grain cereals, fish oils and oil extracted from olives and nuts are also full of unsaturated fats. These fats are thought of as healthy and friendly to heart, as they raise the concentration of high density lipoproteins (good cholesterol) in the blood.
Unsaturated fats: good for health
Unsaturated fats increase the amount of high density lipoproteins which prevent the accumulation of bad cholesterol on the walls of their arteries. HDL carries LDL into the liver where it has broken down and published.
Fats which can’t be synthesized by the body and which need to be obtained through diet are termed as essential fatty acids. They’re long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, categorized into two families: Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are also known as n-3 and n-6 fatty acids. The counting of the carbon atoms starts from the methyl end of the fatty acids. In Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, the first double bond is positioned in third and sixth positions respectively.
Essential fatty acids play some crucial functions in our body such as:
- Manufacture and repair of cell membranes
- Production of prostaglandins, which in turn regulate heart rate, blood pressure, maintenance of fertility and conception etc..
- Encouraging the body to fight against infections
- Maintenance of proper development in children
Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There are three nutritionally significant omega-3 fatty acids that are extracted from other sources.
- Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) obtained from plants
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
From the three, the later two are found in animals. ALA afterwards gets summoned to EPA and DHA. Recommended dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids is indicated to function as 1 – 2 g each day.
Plants sources of ALA
- Flaxseeds – They are Called alsi in Hindi, Aviselu in Telugu, and Agasi in Kannada. The oil extracted from these seeds is the richest source of ALA.
- Raps – The title canola stems from Canadian oil and is extracted from the seeds of a genetically engineered plant developed in Canada from the Raps plant. The Rapeseed plant belongs to the mustard family. This is a less costly alternative for ALA.
- Soy beans – The oil extracted from these seeds also comprises ALA but at a lesser concentration when compared to omega-6 fatty acids.
- Perilla – This is an annual herb that belongs to the mint family.
- Chia – it’s a flowering plant native to southern and central Mexico and belongs to the mint family. Its seeds are used for extraction of oils. These seeds may also be obtained raw. The sprouts of those seeds are extremely nutritious and taken as salads together with sandwiches. Soaked chia seeds may be utilised in porridges and puddings.
- Hanf – Hemp is a common name used for Cannabis plant. These seeds may be consumed raw as sprouts or could be transformed into milk like soy milk. This may be used to prepare hemp tofu or a non dairy ice-cream.
- Walnuts – They are directly absorbed as they are rich supply of omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts are high in calories too. So moderation in consumption is recommended.
Animal sources of ALA
- Few varieties of cold water fish are found to be rich in ALA.. They’re Salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel etc.. So the fish oils extracted from such sources can form a significant part of our diet.
- The thylakoid membranes of green plants with broad leaves have a higher proportion of ALA.. Hence animals that consume these plants are also a fantastic source of ALA..
Sources of Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Nutritionally important omega-6 fatty acids are Linoleic acid and Arachidonic acid. They’re also called polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFAs. The Linoleic acid becomes converted into gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in our body. They act as precursors for prostaglandins and are vital for healthy brain function.
A Lot of vegetable oils have been found to be abundant in omega-6 fatty acids and few of these are:
- Baumwolle Samenöl
- Färberdisteln Öl
- Borretsch Öl
- Mais Öl
- Olive Öl
Note: Although these oils are rich in essential fatty acids it is suggested to prevent the ingestion of refined and hydrogenated versions of these oils as they are injurious to health.
- Other poultry products such as chicken.
Selection Criteria for Intake of Fats
- Avoid saturated fats as far as possible
- Choice of an apt polyunsaturated fat is a wise choice to be taken
- Try to take foods full of omega-3 fatty acids such as whole-grains, fresh vegetables and fruits.
- Non-vegetarians can supplement their diet with fish.
- Try to decrease the intake of processed and fast foods.