Dietary fats tend to get a bad reputation. Despite what you’ve heard, eating fat doesn’t make you fat—as long as you’re eating it in moderation. In fact, fat is an important part of a balanced diet.
Your body needs fat for various biological processes. Not getting enough fat can make it difficult for your body to function properly and lead to health problems.
In this article, we’re going to look at five signs that you’re not getting enough fat from the foods you eat, especially healthy fats. We will also explore the role fats play in your body and how to create a balanced diet.
Why do you need fat in your diet?
Your body needs fat for many biological processes. You cannot live a healthy life without it. Here are some of the important roles that dietary fat plays in your body.
Helps absorb vitamins. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, so your body only absorbs them when they are consumed with fat. A lack of fat in your diet can lead to deficiencies in these vitamins, which can lead to a variety of health problems.
Promotes cell growth. Fats make up the structure of the outer membrane of every cell in your body.
Supports brain and eye health. The omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) help keep your brain, central nervous system, and retina healthy. Your body doesn’t make these fatty acids – you can only get them from your diet.
Wound healing. Essential fatty acids play a key role in wound healing and blood clotting.
Hormone production. Your body needs dietary fat to make certain hormones, such as the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen.
Power source. One gram of fat you consume provides about 9 calories of energy. By comparison, one gram of carbohydrate or protein only provides 4 calories of energy.
Types of dietary fat
Dietary fat can be divided into four types: trans fat, saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat.
Trans fats, found in partially hydrogenated oils, are the least healthy fats for your body. Hydrogenated oils are often used to improve the flavor and shelf life of processed foods.
Your body does not need trans fats. Eating large amounts of this type of fat increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Trans fats can be found in:
processed foods (microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, cookies, etc.)
baked goods (store-bought cakes, pies, cookies, etc.)
fried foods (donuts, fries, etc.)
margarine and vegetable shortening
To find out if a food product contains trans fats, you can read the ingredient list on the package. If the product contains partially hydrogenated oils, it is best to avoid it.
Saturated fats are usually found in animal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy products. These fats are solid at room temperature.
The USDA recommends getting less than 10 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat. Current research suggests that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
According to the American Heart Association, a trusted source, unsaturated fats help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the blood. It can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.