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Health, Nutrition and Easy Diet – The Basic Needs of Fats In Our Foods
The most important contribution to our preventive health program is to give our body its basic food needs to function well. Our fearfully and wonderfully made body has the capacity to heal and repair itself if we give it the right nutrients. Besides the basic water, protein and carbohydrates our body needs, health, nutrition and easy diet begin with giving our body its share of good fats. Let us take a look at this last one.
Fats are found in plant and animal foods. Like carbohydrates they contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Fats are the most concentrated form of energy providing more than twice as many calories as carbohydrates and proteins. Fats contain 9 cal. per gram vs 4 for carbohydrates.
But there are bad fats and good fats. Meals without sufficient good fats will not sustain hunger. Good fats satisfy the stomach and reduce the rate of discharge; they are absorbed from the intestine at a slower rate than carbohydrates; this is desirable for the process of digestion. Good fat is needed in the structure and function of all tissues, especially of the nerves and brain. It pads body organs, blood vessels and nerves. Under the skin, fat serves as an insulator for conserving body heat.
A minimum of 10% of calories from fat is needed to ensure absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins and linoleic acid. But it should not exceed 30% of daily calories, in order to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer.
It is important to understand the different types of fats that exist in our foods. Some families may find that their pattern of food purchases may consist of only the bad kind of fat. First of all, fats and oils (fatty acids) in our foods all contain a combination of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats; each one has one or the other in predominance.
For example, butter is called a saturated fat because its content of saturated fat is over 60%. In comparison, vegetable oils contain only about 15% or less saturated fatty acids with their predominant characteristics being in the monounsaturated category. Basically, the more saturated fats are the harder they will be at room temperature. The more mono- and poly-unsaturated they are the more liquid they will be. Fats that are hard at room temperature will clog your system more – except for good grass-fed butter and extra-virgin coconut oils in moderate quantity which are high in vitamin.
Oils that are hydrogenated undergo a process to stiffen their consistency for the use in baked goods and to increase shelf life. This process is known to produce a fatty acid that can be harmful if consumed in large quantity.
Here is an example showing basic groups in order of increasing saturated contents: Canola, safflower and corn oil – less than 15% saturated fats. The next group of olive oil, sesame seed, soybean, margarine and peanut oil contain between 15 and 20% saturated fats. Shortening, cottonseed oil, chicken fat are between 20-30% increasing respectively. The last group is lard, butter and coconut oil for 40-85% in saturated oil.
There are three natural types of fats: Saturated fats: from animal and palm and coconut oil; these are solid at room temperature. They raise cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats: from plants; these tend to lower blood cholesterol levels. Essential fatty acids are found in all oil bearing seeds and nuts; best sources are: linoleic acid (safflower, sunflower, sesame, walnut, soy, primrose. Monounsaturated fats: from plants (olive oil, peanut oil). These do not affect the cholesterol levels in plaque buildup and are highly emulsify.
Hydrogenated fats are found in shortenings and margarines and are similar to saturated fats in their effects. Over-consumption of animal and hydrogenated fat causes an overload on the body’s metabolism. There are other classes of fats which are beyond the scope of this article. You can do a search on the Internet.
Although we need fats, we simply get too much of it because of our western way of eating. The over-abundance of these fatty substances clog up the free flow in the bloodstream, clumping together and forming plugs in tiny blood vessels that prevent nutrients and oxygen from getting to cells.
What about cholesterol? What is it and what is its use? Cholesterol is a lipid fat that is produced by the liver and is also present in animal tissues. It supplies no calories and is not burned for energy. However, excess cholesterol can be harmful to the body and cause certain heart diseases and atherosclerosis. Foods such as meat, butter, cheese, milk, eggs and other cholesterol-bearing foods should be eaten in moderation.
There is good and bad cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is known as “bad” cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as “good” cholesterol. Cholesterol is not dissolve in the blood, it is rather transported to and from the cells by carriers called lipoproteins. Cholesterol is part of the bile acids and salts. It acts as a conductor of nerve impulses. It is needed for proper formation and function of brain and nerve cells and is found in every cell in the body. As you can see it is essential for body function.
There is another type of fat known as the Essential Fatty Acids or EFA that are necessary for health and that cannot be manufactured by the body. It must therefore be supplied through the diet. These are also referred to as vitamin F. They are found in high concentration in the brain and play a part in the transmission of nerve impulses.
These fats are as essential to good health as vitamins. They influence every part of the body. They are vital components of the structures of all membranes. They are the biologically active components of the polyunsaturates which are recommended for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
There are two basic categories of these essential fatty acids: one is omega-3 which are found in fresh deep water fish, fish oil and some vegetable oils such as canola, flaxseed and walnut. The other is omega-6 which are found primarily in raw nuts, seeds, legumes, and in unsaturated vegetable oils such as borage, grape seed, primrose, sesame and soybean.
I began to improve my own diet around the mid-eighties, when I read a book on fats. I eliminated a lot of extra saturated fats that I was not even aware existed in my then normal way of eating. I used to have difficulty losing weight. That’s because I was eating over the amount of fat grams allowed per day. This never allowed my body to rid itself of the accumulating fats from day to day.
Once I got my diet to include under 35 grams of good fats, I began to lose effortlessly. It just meant substituting a few things that were high in fat for other lower products – for example, sour cream for yogurt. A baked potato ladened with seasoned yogurt is just as delicious as the sour-cream smothered spud. A bowl of cut-up veggies spiked with non-salt seasonings is just as much entertaining as popcorn or chips while watching a movie.
Health, nutrition and easy diet begin with giving our body what it needs to function well. That includes giving it good fats and cutting out the bad./dmh
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