Why Do We Need Fats?

nutrition

Fat has a poor reputation in North American culture. This may be because we only really notice it when we see someone who is obese – a case where too much of a good thing is harmful. But fat is a 'good thing,’ a necessary nutritional element that:

  • Provides insulation in a layer under our skin.
  • Helps prevent dehydration by making the skin less permeable to fluids.
  • Provides a needed energy store for cells, which helps them balance their energy budget.
  • Dilutes toxins in the blood by absorption into fat cells and releases them slowly enough for safe breakdown.
  • Allows us to eat and store energy when food is plentiful and then tap into this storage in lean times.

Along with these general benefits, some specific benefits include the ability to absorb fat soluble vitamins from the diet. Vitamins A, E, D and K require fat to digest and transport.

Some fatty acids are nutrients on their own. These are called essential fatty acids because the body cannot produce them and must take them in as food. These are called linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. They include the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which contribute to the normal development of the body.

Studies have shown they may provide a host of other benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and some cancers, as well as staving off depression.

While certain types of fats and large amounts of fat in the diet can lead to health problems (high cholesterol and weight gain) the idea that all fats are bad or should be eliminated is incorrect. As in most things, a proper balance is best.

photo by Nyboer Creative

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