What Is Fat?

We often hear about fats and the role of fats in our body, but what is fat actually? It is an essential part of our nutrition and diet without which we cannot lead a healthy life. Our bodies need small quantities of ‘good fat’ to help our body function normally and to prevent diseases. However, excess fat can lead to serious health problems which include high blood pressure, obesity and high levels of cholesterol.

Here is a small breakdown which explains the meaning of fat and its classification.

  • Oils – Fat in liquid form – in room temperature. These do not mix in water and are greasy.
  • Fats – All varieties – especially ones which are solid at the room temperature.
  • Vegetable Fats – Include corn oil, flax seed oil, peanut oil and olive oil among others.
  • Animal fats – These include lard, butter, fat in meats and cream.
  • Lipids – All fats irrespective of their being solid or liquid.

Types of Fat

Fats are basically categorized into four types –

Healthy Fats

  • Monounsaturated fats/Monounsaturates
  • Polyunsaturated fats/Polyunsaturates
    • Omega-3 fat
    • Omega-6 fat

Major Food Sources Of Healthy Fats –

  • Omega 6 fat – corn and sunflower oils, seeds, nuts, sesame and non hydrogenated margarine.
  • Omega-3 fat – Flax seeds, walnuts, fatty fish, soybean and canola oil and omega 3 eggs.

Unhealthy Fats

  • Trans Fat
  • Saturated Fat

Major Food Sources Of Unhealthy Fats – Unhealthy fats lead to problematic conditions and hence should be avoided as much as possible. Here are the main food sources –

  • Saturated Fats are usually consumed through foods that are prepared in hydrogenated oils or foods such as full fat dairy products, palm oil, lard, butter, fatty meats, cocoa butter and palm kernel oil.
  • Trans fat are richly present in ready prepared foods, snack foods, fast foods and food which is prepared using shortening.

Why Fat Is Needed – How Good It Is For Our Body

  • It is a great source of energy. Fat reserves are essential in lean times when the body uses these for energy and it converts fat into glucose.
  • Fat acts as a cushion and helps in protecting our vital organs. If there is no fat, our vital organs will get damaged.
  • Fat helps in processing all vitamins in our body which are fat soluble and are necessary for good health.
  • Omega 3 is a type of fatty acid which helps in complementing the various cognitive processes of our brain.

Why Too Much Fat Is Bad

  • Fats have high calorific value which means excess or unused fats get stored in the body as fat, which means weight gain.
  • Fats work as a cushion and help to protect our vital organs. However, if there is too much fat, it means increase in workload of different organs and the heart.
  • Too much body fat is closely associated with high levels of obesity, high cholesterol and heart diseases.

Fats should be consumed in moderation for best benefits to the body without any harmful effects.