Fats

Fats are concentrated source of energy, providing 9 kcal of energy per gram. Fats are an essential component of our diet.

Functions

  • They help in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins – A, D ,E and K.
  • Fat below the skin acts as an insulator, preserving body heat and has a role in maintaining body temperature.
  • They are an integral part of cell membranes.
  • Stored fat in the body can be used as fuel during starvation, illness, etc.
  • Fats improve  palatability of the diet and provide a feeling of fullness to the stomach.
  • Vital organs like kidney have a thin protective layer of fat around them which protects them from physical injury and shock.

Classification

Fats can be classified as

  • Saturated fats
  • Unsaturated fats
    • Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA)
    • Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)
  • Trans fats

Sources

Saturated fats Unsaturated fats Trans fats
Monounsaturated (MUFA) Polyunsaturated (PUFA)
Omega – 6 Omega – 3
Butter Olive oil Soyabean oil Flaxseed oil Hydrogenated vegetable oils / Vanaspati Ghee
Ghee Almond oil Safflower oil Soyabean oil Butter substitutes
Cream Canola oil Sunflower oil Canola oil Margarine
Cheese Groundnut oil Corn oil Wheat germ oil Biscuits, pies, cakes, crisps, mithais, prepared in vanaspati
Coconut oil Rape/Mustard oil Sesame oil Prim rose oil
Palm oil Peanuts Cottonseed oil Soyabean
Lard Avocados Walnuts
Beef Cod liver oil
Pork Mackerel
Lamb Salmon

Guidelines

The total fat requirements of an individual is met by fats from two major sources :

  • Invisible fats – Fats which are present as an integral component of raw food items like milk, meat, fish etc.
  • Visible fats – Fats in the form of oils, ghee, butter etc. used as a cooking medium.

For a normal healthy person, the total intake of fats should be 20-25% of the total calorie requirement.

The type of fat determines the effect on the plasma cholesterol levels. Saturated fats increase the level of cholesterol and hence increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. MUFA lowers the total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) without lowering the HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). PUFA lowers the total cholesterol, both LDL, which is the bad cholesterol, and HDL, which is the good one.

Ideally the intake of fats should be distributed among equal proportions of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. A practical and easy method of distributing fats / oils could be in the form of using each type of fat / oil in rotation for a period of time. Another method could be using different fats for different preparations in a day.