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Why Do We Need Fats in Our Diets?

People often follow low-fat diets to lose weight and slim down. This is a good start, but you should not cut back on fats entirely, as they make up a vital part of the human diet. Consuming most of your fat intake from unsaturated fats helps you take in the proper amount of fat while maintaining a healthy diet and limiting the risk for heart disease.

Along with protein and carbohydrates, fat is one of three macronutrients the human body needs to survive. These macronutrients enable growth and basic body functions. Fat provides energy, cushions your organs and allows your body to absorb necessary nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, E and K. Fats also give foods flavor and consistency.

Three basic types of fats exist in your body -- saturated, unsaturated and trans fat. Doctors view saturated and trans fats as “bad fats” because they can increase your risk for coronary heart disease. Saturated fat is in meat, butter and cream, including fast and junk food, like hamburgers and ice cream. Trans fat is in processed, fried foods and snacks, such as doughnuts, potato chips and cheese sticks.

Nutrition experts consider unsaturated fat a “good fat.” You can lower your blood cholesterol and decrease your risk of heart disease by adjusting your diet to limit saturated and trans fat, while increasing unsaturated fat. Olive and canola oil represent good sources of monounsaturated fatty acids. Other examples of unsaturated fat include nuts, avocado, tuna and salmon.

Fat packs a large caloric punch of 9 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates or protein. According to the Institute of Medicine, adults should take in between 20 and 35 percent of their total calories from fats. For a 2,000-calorie diet, you should consume fewer than 20 grams of saturated fat per day.

More than 500,000 people die each year from coronary heart disease, so take care to monitor your intake of bad fats. The Food and Drug Administration began requiring food labels to list the amount of trans fat in 2006. Avoid restricting your fat intake beyond the recommended allowance. Children, especially, need fats to ensure proper growth and development of the brain and nervous system.

Photo Credits:

  • fat chicken sandwich image by Karin Lau from Fotolia.com

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.