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Know More about Fat

When it comes to fats and cholesterol, a lot of people naturally want to keep their distance, because all they can think of is obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other health problems. But in fact, like protein and carbohydrates, fat is an important nutrient, and it provides energy that our bodies need. So let's look at fat in depth.

The function of fats

Fats play many roles inside our body. These include:

  1. Fat stores energy, which can be converted and released when our body need. The subcutaneous fat (the layer of fat directly beneath our skin) also serves as an insulator, which helps maintain our body temperature.

  2. Most fat are found in adipose tissues, which surround and protect our body's internal organs.

  3. Fat serves as a medium for transporting and absorbing fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K.

  4. Fat is an essential component in the production of cholesterol, vitamin D, bile acid, and certain hormones.

  5. Fat ensures the proper functioning of our nervous system and skin.

The types and origins of fats

Fat is made up of a glycerol and fthree fatty acid molecules. There are two types of fats commonly found in food.

  1. Unsaturated fat

    Unsaturated fat can be subdivided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Replacing saturated fat and trans fat with polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, maintain vascular health, and be beneficial to overall health. Among polyunsaturated fats, linoleic acid and linolenic acid are essential fatty acids that cannot be synthesised by our body, and can only be obtained from food. They facilitate blood flow, maintain optimal blood pressure, and strengthen the immune system. Moderate consumption of unsaturated fats can reduce the level of total cholesterol in the blood. Therefore, they are very important for maintaining our health.

    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 taken in excess. Therefore, it is recommended to limit the intake of trans fat, including artificial margarine and shortening that contain trans fat, as well as food items that are made with these fats such as fried food and bakery products (e.g. pastries and crackers).

  2. Saturated fats

    It increases clotting activity in the blood stream and thus, if overconsumed, will lead to arterial thickening and diseases such as strokes and heart attack. 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.


Moderate consumption of fats

Both unsaturated and saturated fat contain the same amount of energy, and will result in overweight if taken in excess. Beware of the "hidden" and “partially hidden” fat content in foods such as ribs, duck, goose, cheese, ice cream, chocolate, salad dressing, nuts and peanuts. It is recommended 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 cuts instead of fatty meat, and use low-fat cooking methods 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 stir-frying with a small amount of oil 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.