Fats can be separated into two categories, saturated fats and unsaturated fats.
Saturated Fats are generally solid at room temperature. They are found in animal products and tropical oils.
Unsaturated Fats are found in plant foods and oils, and can be further categorized into monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated Fats are in food sources such as olive oil, canola oil, almonds, and avocados.
Polyunsaturated Fats are in most vegetable and fish oils.
Fats play several essential roles in our bodies, one of which includes serving as an energy source through a wide range of exercise intensities. Fats also help individuals maintain body temperature, protect organs, deliver and absorb fat-soluble vitamins, enhance the taste and texture of foods, and improve satiety of meals and snacks.
With the exception of some naturally occurring trans fats, the majority of trans fats or hydrogenated fats are chemically engineered, taking a naturally soft or liquid unsaturated fat and making it solid. This is done mostly to improve the shelf life of food products and to also improve the texture or taste of certain foods. “Hydrogenating” fats are also used to help prevent the oils from separating from other ingredients in a product. Let’s take natural and regular peanut butter for example.
Natural peanut butter needs to be stirred because the oil separates from the crushed nuts.
Regular peanut butter does not need to be stirred because the hydrogenation process prevents the oil from separating form the nuts.
This is great for big companies because it helps to improve the earnings of that company.
Trans fats are commonly found in margarine, french-fries, potato chips, fried foods, store bought crackers and cookies, and several other processed foods. They are very dense and pack into the cell membrane tightly, ultimately leading to complications such as heart disease, cancer, high cholesterol, lymphoma, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Saturated fats can often times get a bad rap, which is why some say that FATS ARE BAD. When saturated fats are consumed in excessive amounts imbalanced to unsaturated fats, it can lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, or cancer.
Good fats, or healthy fats, are natural and found in whole food sources and certain oils. Having adequate amounts of healthy fat in your diet in necessary to support metabolism, hormone production, the absorption of nutrients, and many more important body functions. Healthy fats have also been proven to improve body composition, alleviate depression, help protect against heart disease, and also preserve eye health.
All in all, a diet with limited to no intake of bad, processed fats and a good balance of healthy fats is critical for optimal health and performance. If you’re not able to consume an adequate amount of fat in your diet, ask your doctor for recommendations on dietary supplements.
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