Thursday, February 16, 2012

What's Eating You? Day 4: Fats~ The Protectors

Fats are molecules otherwise known as lipids. Lipids are defined as, ", carbon-containing compounds that are hydrophobic (water-insoluble), lipophilic (fat-soluble), and have a physical characteristic of feeling greasy to the touch." (Fink, Burgoon, Mikesky 2009) Fats fall into one of three major categories: triglycerides, phospholipids, and sterols. Triglycerides are the most commonly found fats in the body, foods, and drinks. Phospholipids are found in animals and plants with a molecular structure which makes them both fat and water-soluble. The third class of lipids, sterols, are the smallest percentage of fats. The best-known sterol is cholesterol which is produced by the human body in the liver. While consuming fats has been attributed to a myriad of health problems, they are still a necessary part of the daily diet. The key is to choose the right kinds from the best sources in the right portions.

Fats perform many critical functions in the body:

  • They provide 60-80% of the body's energy needs at rest.
  • Fats are an abundant energy reserve.
  • They protect and insulate vital organs.
  • Fats provide proper cell structure, especially in nerve and brain tissue.
  • Fats help produce vitamin D in the body.
  • Fats form steroid hormones.
  • They carry vitamins A, D, E, and K through the bloodstream. 
  • Fats enhance the flavor and add satiety to meals.

Foods that contain fats include oils, grains, meat, dairy, beans, certain vegetables (like avocados and olives), nuts, and seeds. Generally speaking, fruits and vegetables contain minimal to no fat. Some of the foods with the highest cholesterol (fat) content are whole milk, cheddar cheese, beef, chicken, turkey, pork, and butter and whole eggs (which contains the highest amount of cholesterol).

The guidelines for fat consumption vary, but recommendations range from 20-35% of the daily caloric intake. If you consume 2,000 calories per day, fats should be 400-700 of those calories. It is thought best to aim at the lower end of this spectrum and to choose non-animal based sources for optimal heart health.

Be good to yourself! More next time...

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