Fats can be consumed – and needed – because they are essential for the body. In addition to providing energy, they promote satiety and help the body absorb important vitamins such as A, D, E, K and omega 3.
Nutritionist and endocrinologist Durval Ribas Filho, president of Abran (Brazilian Nutrology Association), Fats are the largest source of fuel for our cells. Each gram provides nine kilocalories (kcal), more than double the amount of energy released by proteins and carbohydrates.
“Fats are made up of lipids, mainly molecules made up of fatty acids, and are essential in the diet, maintaining body temperature, synthesizing certain hormones, producing bile acids (essential for digestion), helping to store energy and the composition of the body’s cell membranes.”
According to Ribas, a diet of 2,000 kcal per day, recommended for a healthy adult, should be between 400 and 700 kcal (20% to 35% of the total) from fats.
“A fat-free diet can lead to vitamin deficiency (hypovitaminosis) because the intestines are involved in the transport and absorption of soluble fats of vitamins A, D, E and K,” he explains.
Here are some reasons to include the right amount of food in your diet:
- Energy supply and storage
- promotes satisfaction
- It helps the body absorb important vitamins such as A, D, E and K
- Maintain body temperature
- It is involved in the synthesis of certain hormones
- It forms the cell membranes of the body
- It acts on the mechanical protection of the organs
- Bile acid production (essential in digestion)
- It helps absorb Omega 3
What are the types of fat?
As it is an essential nutrient for maintaining the body’s structural and metabolic functions, fats should be consumed according to daily intake recommendations, and only high saturated and trans types should be avoided, especially because of their detrimental health effects. cardiovascular disease explained nutritionist Ana Lina de Carvalho Cunha Sales.
“Therefore, there is a recommendation for practices related to caloric fitness, giving priority to the consumption of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and paying attention to the limit of intake of saturated fats,” says the head of the Health Technology Innovation Management Unit. of HU/ UFPI (Piauí Federal University Hospital), from Ebserh (Brazilian Hospital Services Company).
According to nutritionist Thiago Volpi of the USP (University of São Paulo), trans fats should always be avoided. It raises “bad” cholesterol (LDL) lowers good cholesterol (HDL), it increases the body’s inflammatory process and increases the risk of developing diabetes and chronic diseases, ”he says.
Saturated fats: too often, it increases the risk of dyslipidemia (increased blood fat levels), promoting an increase in total cholesterol and LDL levels. However, it is not advisable to completely eliminate it from the diet, but rather to consume it in moderation. Its main sources are butter, fat, bacon, meat and its derivatives, milk and whole fat dairy products.
Unsaturated fats: they are plant-based and are known as “good fats” because they can help lower LDL levels. This type of fat is divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
- Monounsaturated fats: helps control cholesterol levels. Its main sources are olive oil, vegetable oils (sunflower, canola), avocado and oilseeds (chestnuts, walnuts, almonds).
- Polyunsaturated fats: omega 3 and omega 6 are represented. When consumed instead of saturated fats, they help reduce LDL levels, which are essential for the body. Its main sources are walnuts, flax seeds, soybeans, vegetable oils and fish oils (salmon, sardines, hake).
trans fats: industrially produced from a chemical process called hydrogenation, they are used as an alternative to animal fat. Its function is to increase the durability of the products, leaving more flavor and crunchiness. Its consumption should be avoided as it raises LDL levels and is able to lower HDL (good cholesterol) levels. They are available in full biscuits, pies, creams, ice cream, processed meats (burgers, nuggets and sausages), industrialized breads, chips, margarine, prepared seasonings and microwave popcorn.
where to find it
You can’t get 100% fat out of your diet. But many foods can be low in fat, as well as canned foods. “But then you have to pay attention to the amount of sodium. You can also mention skim milk and dairy products and some wholemeal bread. You should always look at the labels,” Ribas points out.
According to the nutritionist, fruits, vegetables, legumes, fiber, lean meats, skinless or edible fats can form a balanced diet, but care must be taken in their preparation, without using too much oil and reusing it, as it can be harmful. compounds.health.
Although animal foods are an important source of fat, it should be emphasized that they are also present in plant foods.
“Consuming nuts, chia, flax and avocado, for example, is guaranteed to get polyunsaturated fats,” says Sales.
Sources of fat for vegetarians, nutritionist Jorge Mancini of Sban (Brazilian Food and Nutrition Association) explains that they should contain omega 3 fatty acids, such as walnuts, flaxseed, soy and canola.
“Other fatty acids are present in oily fruits, such as almonds, pine nuts, peanuts, and should also be included in the vegetarian diet,” he says.
Another important point is that fats can also be harmful. “If you consume too much fat, like protein and carbohydrates, you gain weight,” Mancini said.
Ribas says that all fats play an important role in the functioning of our body, but we must keep in mind that just as some fats are beneficial, it is easy to consume too much.
“It’s important to keep in mind that a lot of the fat we eat in our daily lives is unhealthy, because it’s already in the food, every meal. But being good for the body doesn’t mean it can’t be consumed. and severe, with a number of comorbidities associated with it, ”says the president. open.
Therefore, he emphasizes that it is essential to know how to distinguish between the types of fat and the amount to be swallowed in order to be part of a healthy and balanced diet.