Fat supplies energy and transports nutrients. Adults don't really have to worry about eating too little; they only need about 5% fat in their diets. However, children need about 30% fat in their diets. And we all need to eat the right kind of fat.
With so much talk of fats, and all the different types that exist, it is no wonder that people are confused about which fats are good and which fats are bad. Many people assume "if it is fat, it's bad." This is not so – there are good fats, as well as bad fats.
The fats which are called omega-6 and omega-3 fats are essential fats (fatty acids), because we only get them through the foods we eat. The fats which are called saturated are the bad fats. We get saturated fats from all the meat and dairy in our daily diet. Essential fatty acids are required by the body to function normally. They can be obtained from canola oil, flaxseed oil, cold-water fish, or fish oil, all of which contain omega-3 fatty acids, and primrose or black currant seed oil, which contains omega-6 fatty acids.
The worst saturated fat is called a trans fatty acid. These are chemically altered (processed) fats. They are found in most packaged foods listed on the label as 'partially hydrogenated' or 'hydrogenated oil'. Our bodies have a more difficult time with processed foods and would prefer foods in their natural state.
The American diet is intentionally laden with saturated fats and hardened hydrogenated fats, leaving about 80% of the population deficient in the essential fats required for the maintenance of the human nervous system, the production of hormones and the control of inflammation.
Fats are metabolized into what are called prostaglandins, of which there three main types: PG1, PG2, and PG3. Simply put, saturated fats convert into PG2, which has an inflammatory effect on the body. Omega-6 and omega-3 fats convert into PG1 and PG3 respectfully and produce an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
More and more research is showing that Americans (and all societies converting to the Standard American Diet) eat too much saturated and trans fats and not enough of the essential omega-3 fats. These nutritional errors have been linked to high cholesterol, breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, PMS, and headaches to name but a few. Such a diet can also be "thrombogenic," i.e. the fat will tend to form lipid particles in your blood after meals, which could lead to blood clots, meaning heart attack or stroke.
All animal fats, such as those in meat, poultry, and dairy products are saturated fats. Processed and fast foods are also saturated. Vegetable oils also can be saturated. Palm, palm kernel and coconut oils are saturated vegetable oils.
Foods from animals – These include beef, beef fat, veal, lamb, pork, lard, poultry fat, butter, cream, milk, cheeses and other dairy products made from whole milk. These foods also contain dietary cholesterol.
Foods from plants – These include coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil (often called tropical oils), and cocoa butter.
The American diet often contains excess of omega-6 fatty acids and insufficient amount of omega-3 fats. Increased consumption of omega-3 oils are recommended to help reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer and alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, premenstrual syndrome, dermatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
There has been much recent research on the relationship between cancer and dietary fat – possibly more than on any other component of the diet. A connection between high fat consumption and breast and colon cancer (two of the most deadly forms of the disease) has appeared in many studies.
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