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Fats: Importance in nutrition and healthy ways to add fat to your diet

The consumption of fats can't be ignored in a healthy diet. Know all about its types, benefits and side effects. This article is a part of a week-long series by Health Shots for National Nutrition Week 2023.
healthy fats for managing cystic fibrosis
Include healthy fats in your diet to stay fit. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Published: 2 Sep 2023, 12:00 pm IST
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What are fats? Well, the body utilises fat as a fuel source. It is the major storage form of energy in the body. Fats are vital macro nutrients that serve as a concentrated source of energy in the body. They play a vital role in cell structure, hormone production and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. A healthy person requires to add up moderate amount of fat in their diet routine. However, fat is high in calories it contributes 9 calories per gram versus the 4 calories per gram from carbohydrates and protein. Therefore, it is necessary to have a balanced intake of these fats with good amount of physical activity.

Types of fats

Aim for most of your dietary fats to come from unsaturated sources, while limiting saturated and transfats. Remember, fats are calorie-dense, so portion control is very necessary.

1. Saturated Fats

These fats are typically solid at room temperature and are commonly found in animal products such as meat and dairy, as well as some plant oils like coconut and palm oil. Beyond moderate consumption, saturated fats may derange cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.

2. Monounsaturated Fats

These fats are liquid at room temperature and are found in foods like olive oil, avocados and nuts. These fats are considered heart-friendly and healthy fats that can help in lowering bad cholesterol levels.

3. Polyunsaturated Fats

These include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3s are found in fatty fish, flax seeds, and walnuts, and they have anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-6s are present in vegetable oils and seeds, but excessive consumption relative to omega-3s might contribute to inflammation.

4. Trans Fats

These are artificially created fats through a process called hydrogenation. They are found in some processed foods, baked goods and fried foods. Trans fats are considered harmful and have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

Fried foods are full of fat
Fried foods may contribute to fat consumption. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Are all fats bad for health?

Not all fats are bad. There are healthy fats and good fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in foods such as avocados, nuts and fish, which can be beneficial for your health.

How much fat is okay to eat in a day?

The amount of fat one can consume depends on the individual dietary needs and goals. Ideally, dietary guidelines suggest that fats should make up around 20-35 percent of your daily caloric intake. It is important to focus on incorporating healthy fats (mono unsaturated and polyunsaturated) while moderating saturated and trans fats. For example if you are taking diet of 2,000 calories, you can have approximately 40-55 grams of fat.

What are the sources of fats?

Wondering how to add fats to your diet? To plate up healthy fats, consider these tips:

Choose healthy sources of fat

  • Choose foods rich in unsaturated fats like avocados, nuts, seeds and fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)
  • Use oils high in healthy fats such as olive oil or canola oil, for cooking and dressing
  • Practise portion control: Be mindful of portion sizes, as fats are calorie-dense
  • Stick to recommended serving sizes

Limit saturated and trans fats in diet

  • Reduce intake of foods high in saturated and trans fats, like fried and processed foods
  • Read the labels! Check food labels for trans fats and choose products with zero trans fats and lower saturated fats
  • Snack on nuts and seeds for a healthy dose of fats, fiber, and nutrients
  • Add sliced avocado to salads, sandwiches, or as a topping for various dishes
  • Incorporate fatty fish into your diet for omega-3 fatty acids. Aim for at least two servings per week
  • Opt for low-fat or fat-free dairy options to reduce saturated fat intake
  • Focus on your cooking methods. Grill, bake, steam or sauté foods instead of deep-frying them
  • Avocado is healthy fat
    Avocados maybe high on fat, but it’s monounsaturated fat! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What are the side effects of eating too much fat in a diet?

According to the World Health Organization, excessive fat intake in diet has been linked to a higher risk of risk of obesity, heart problems and certain types of cancer. Consuming a fatty diet can also impact gut health and metabolism that may impact blood sugar levels, cholesterol, as well as liver problems.

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About the Author

Dietitian Nisha is a PGD In clinical Nutrition, PGD in diabetes, B.Sc. in food and Nutrition. She also has certification in maternal and childcare nutrition, apart from a certification in weight loss management. She is currently associated with Motherhood Hospital, Gurugram. ...Read More

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