Fats play many roles inside our body. These include:
Fat is made up of glycerol and fatty acids. Two types of fats are commonly found in food.
Unsaturated fat can be subdivided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fat helps reduce the level of low-density lipoprotein (also known as “bad” cholesterol) in the blood stream and prevents blockage of the arteries. Monounsaturated fats are thus very beneficial to health. Polyunsaturated fats contain linoleic acid and linolenic acid, both of which are essential fatty acids that cannot be produced by our body, and can only be absorbed through the consumption of food. So these kind of fatty acids are very important to our health. They facilitate blood flow, maintain normal blood pressure, and strengthen the immune system. Moderate amounts of poly-unsaturated fats can reduce levels of total cholesterol (both beneficial and harmful) in the blood.
Unsaturated fat is liquid at room temperature. They are usually found in vegetable oil such as olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil and corn oil, as well as in seeds such as watermelon seeds and pine seeds, and nuts such as walnuts and cashews.
Please note: When vegetable oils are subjected to hydrogenation process, they will convert to trans fat which will increase the level of bad cholesterol and reduce the good cholesterol in the blood if taking in excess. Therefore, it is recommended to limit intake of trans fat, including food items with trans fat containing margarine and shortening, as well as fried food and bakery products (e.g. pastries and crackers) in which trans fat and shortening are used as ingredients or in the cooking process.
It increases clotting activity in the blood stream and thus developing arterial thickening, which leads to strokes, heart attack and other forms of damage. Saturated fat also stimulates the production of cholesterol by our liver. Therefore excessive levels of saturated fats cause an increase in “bad” cholesterol that impedes blood flow, and causes more damage to your health than direct consumption of dietary cholesterol.
Saturated fat is solid at room temperature. They are usually found in animal fats such as meat, butter, lard, cream, and egg yolks. There are also some plant-based saturated fat, such as coconut oil and palm oil.
Both unsaturated and saturated fat contain the same amount of energy, so over consumption will result in overweight. Beware of the "hidden" and “partially hidden” fat content of foods such as pork chop, duck, goose, cheese, ice cream, chocolate, salad dressing, nut and snack. Dietitians recommend that fat should make up no more than 30% of your daily energy intake. Saturated fat, in particular, should make up less than 10% of your energy intake.
It is important to maintain a balanced diet. Eat more vegetables than meat, select lean meats trimmed of fat, and use an appropriate cooking method in order to reduce your fat intake. Avoid deep-frying and putting oil when marinating the meat. Use steaming, braising, baking, poaching, boiling, roasting, and other methods rather than frying. The use of a microwave oven and non-stick frying pan also helps to reduce the amount of oil in food preparation.