• Remana Jamal

Is Fat Good or Bad?

Updated: Oct 31, 2019




Fats have a bad reputation, when you ask someone if fat is good or bad? They’ll most probably say bad. It was claimed that fats are the major cause of diseases and weight gain and people should reduce it or cut it out completely from their diets, but does this actually make sense?

Fat is one of the main macronutrients that are important for our bodies. We need both dietary fats and body fats to maintain good health, especially the good kind of fats. Yes of course too much of the bad kind of fats will lead to heart diseases, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. This time I want to talk about the good side of dietary and body fats.


· The function of fats

Fat is considered as an energy source during exercise. In the first couple of minutes of your exercise, your body gets energy from glycogen (stored carbs), after 20 minutes of exercise your body fat becomes the major energy source (this’s when you start burning fats).

Fat is also needed for a healthier brain. Studies have shown that healthy dietary fats have a role in neuron activity, which can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other brain diseases.

The fat we get from food can prevent heart diseases by reducing cholesterol, triglycerides, high blood pressure, and increasing HDL “good cholesterol”.

We also need fat for better hair and skin. Vitamin K, E, D, and A are fat-soluble vitamins that can only be dissolved in fats.

Other functions of fats are balancing hormone levels, regulating blood temperature, balancing blood sugar, better metabolism, and better reproductive health.


· Types of healthy fats

Unsaturated fats are the good type of fats that are found mainly in plant-based foods and fish. They usually tend to be liquid at room temperature. There’re two types of unsaturated fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.


1) Monounsaturated fats:

The monounsaturated fats are good for heart health due to its anti-inflammatory effects. Monounsaturated fats can also improve insulin sensitivity for people with insulin resistance and can aid weight loss. Monounsaturated fats activate dopamine (a chemical that makes us feel happy), which means a low risk of depression. Monounsaturated fats are linked to lower risk of cancers and osteoporosis; this’s because monounsaturated fats help with the absorption of calcium for stronger bones.

Sources: avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and canola oil.


2) Polyunsaturated fats:

There’re two types of polyunsaturated fats, omega-3, and omega-6 fats.


a) Omega-3

Omega-3 fat is good for the heart as it lowers blood pressure, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and prevents blood clots. It’s also good for brain function by lowering the risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. Omega-3 fat is considered an anti-inflammatory, fights autoimmune diseases, reduces cancer risk, improves bone health, better sleep quality, supports children’s and infant’s developments, reduces period pain, improves skin health and slows down aging, including macular degeneration (eye disease).

Sources: fatty fish, nuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil, and soybean oil.


b) Omega-6

Omega-6 also has a role in protecting the heart from heart diseases. It can also reduce the risk of diabetes by regulating blood sugar.

Sources: walnut oil, soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil.





Fat is an essential nutrient that we need to consume for optimal health, regulating hormones, healthy heart, brain function, weight loss, regulating body temperature, providing energy, and absorbs vitamins.

The majority of your fat intake should come from unsaturated fats, as one study showed that only 5% replacement of saturated fats with unsaturated fats reduced the risk of heart diseases by up to 15% - 25%.






















Sources

Chianese, R., Coccurello, R., Viggiano, A., Scafuro, M., Fiore, M., Coppola, G., Operto, F., Fasano, S., Laye, S., Pierantoni, R. and Meccariello, R. (2018). Impact of Dietary Fats on Brain Functions. Current Neuropharmacology, 16(7), pp.1059-1085.

www.heart.org. (2019). Dietary Fats.

Dr. Axe. (2019). The Truth About Monounsaturated Fat.

www.heart.org. (2019). Monounsaturated Fat.

Medlineplus.gov. (2019). Facts about polyunsaturated fats: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.

Dr. Axe. (2019). Omega-3: Top 11 Benefits and How to Get More in Your Diet - Dr. Axe.

Dr. Axe. (2019). 11 Best Healthy Fats for Your Body - Dr. Axe.

Medlineplus.gov. (2019). Dietary fats explained: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.

Harvard Health. (2019). Know the facts about fats - Harvard Health.

Harvard Health. (2019). The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between - Harvard Health.

Butler, N. (2019). Saturated vs. unsaturated fats: Which is better for you?.

Healthline. (2019). Saturated vs. Unsaturated Fat: Know the Facts.

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