The Health Benefits of Essential Fats

The Health Benefits of Essential Fats

The excess consumption of dietary fats is almost widely consented to by health and fitness experts to predispose the body to a variety of health risks notwithstanding its role as an essential nutrient. Likewise, despite the fact that different types of dietary fats have many types of influences on blood cholesterol amounts, the truth of the matter remains that food which are high in fat are thought to be “calorie-dense” and that an increased ingestion will surely cause body weight gain.

It is on the other hand necessary at this stage to clarify that not all fats are actually that bad and that some of them are very important and in fact considered essential for proper functioning of the human body. Aside from their utilization as a source of energy for the body, a form of fat referred to as the essential fatty acids (often called EFAs), are for example utilized to create the steroid hormones – estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, and the hormone-like prostaglandins – a fatty acid by-product found in almost all tissues in the human body. Prostaglandins aid in the reduction of arthritis, hypertension, and migraine headaches.

Dietary fats are normally categorized in accordance with the chemical makeup of their constituent fatty acids (which are chain-like molecules of oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen). Based upon their chemical composition, fatty acids are in general regarded as being either saturated or unsaturated. The degree of saturation or otherwise is mostly a function of the length and actual number of hydrogen atoms linked with a carbon chain in the structure of the fatty acid.

Saturated Fats
These fats possess single bonds between the carbon atoms which constitute their tail and they are considered as “full” or “saturated” since they cannot take up any extra hydrogen atom. Saturated fats are principally found in fat-containing foods of animal source such as fatty meats (e.g. pork, lamb, beef, and ham), egg yolks, dairy products, and poultry. They are also present in plant sources like palm kernel oil and coconut oil – which are called “tropical oils”.

Another type of saturated fat called trans fatty acids are a result of the hydrogenation of unsaturated fatty acids whereby the unsaturated fatty acid is treated through the addition of hydrogen atoms to help make them solid and more stable at room temperature. Increased ingestion of both of these saturated types of fatty acids heightens an individual’s risk of coronary artery problems.

Unsaturated Fats
The chemical structure of unsaturated fats is such that they have one or more double bonds in between their carbon atoms. There are two different kinds of unsaturated fatty acids which are the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. In a monounsaturated fat molecule, one pair of hydrogen atom is actually missing while on the other hand there is more than one pair of hydrogen atom missing in a polyunsaturated fatty acid.

Monounsaturated Fats
These are generally fatty acids in which the molecules contain just one double-bonded carbon in such a way that each carbon atom of the double bond does not have one pair of hydrogen atom. They are consequently not “full” or “saturated” and have the ability to connect with one pair of hydrogen atom.

Monounsaturated fat sources include almonds, olive oil, canola oil, palm oil, and peanut oil. Monounsaturated fats are considered the most healthy of dietary fats and are generally known to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and increase HDL “good” cholesterol amounts.

The Essential Fatty Acids
Polyunsaturated fats are comprised mostly of the fatty acids referred to as Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). While these fatty acids are essential for particular biological functions, they nonetheless can never be produced by the human body and consequently must be gotten from consumed foods.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids have a chemical design that has two or more double bonds in each molecule arranged in such a way that four or more carbon atoms could be bond with hydrogen atoms. They consequently do not have two or more pairs of hydrogen atoms in their carbon chain and because of that they are normally soft at room temperature. This soft chemical quality of polyunsaturated fats is on account of the fact that there is a small bend where their double bond is located.

Polyunsaturated dietary fats possess one essential fatty acid from which all the fatty acids in the body can be made from. The conversion of these essential fatty acids (short-chain fatty acids) into longer-chain fatty acids assists in the production of a lot of important chemical compounds required by the body like hormones, blood clotting agents, and compounds involved with both immune and inflammatory responses. Fundamentally, every living cell within the human body needs essential fatty acids in order to recreate and manufacture new cells.

Types of Essential Fatty Acids
EFAs are divided further into two categories – the alpha-linolenic acid (Omega-3s) and linolenic acid (Omega-6s). Omega-3 dietary fats are so-called because their very first double bond of linolenic acid is located at the third carbon while the Omega-6 fats are similarly so-called given that the very first double bond of the linolenic acid is found on the sixth carbon.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These fats are believed to carry out important roles in both brain and eye functions and have a beneficial effect on coronary heart health as they are actually considered to reduce the amounts of triglycerides in the body. Oily seafood such as Herring, Mackerel, Salmon, and Sardines possess a high-fat content and give more Omega-3 fats when compared to a number of other fish. Omega-3 dietary fats can be present in vegetable oils like flaxseed, canola, and walnut oil.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 fats have been proven to be useful in reducing the likelihood of coronary artery disease (CAD) as they decrease the build-up of cholesterol within the arteries of the heart. Raw legumes, seeds, nuts, and unsaturated vegetable oils such as safflower, primrose, soybean, sunflower, corn, canola, and cottonseed oil are examples of the high sources of omega-6 fats.

Nevertheless, excessive consumption of omega-6 dietary fats in the form of processed vegetable oils could create an ideal environment for tissue damage and inflammation that can lead to cancer. This is because of the fact that omega-6 fatty acids are actually prone to oxidation inside the body and at the same time, they lower the available amount of omega-3 dietary fats which thus decreases the overall anti-clotting capabilities of the omega-3 fatty acids. Antioxidant nutrients including Vitamin E are necessary to lessen this oxidation impact caused by the excess intake of omega-6 dietary fats.

Taking into consideration the fact that the standard western diet includes excess amounts of omega-6 fatty acids which contend with the more helpful omega-3 fats, nutrition experts as a result advocate that people ingest essential fatty acids in a 4:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3.

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