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The Truth About Fats and Why We Need Them In Our Diet

What are fats?

Simple answer is that fats and oils found in foods consist mainly of triglycerides. These are made up of glycerol and 3 fatty acids. Each fatty acid is a chain of carbon and hydrogen atoms with carboxyl group (-COOH) and methyl group at the other end (-CH3). Fatty acids can be classified into 3 different groups depending on their structure: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. In food, each group is determined whether the fat is is hard or liquid and how it is handled by the body and how it affects health (Bean, 2008).

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Polyunsaturated fats have the least hydrogen, and the carbon chains two or more double bonds. 

Polyunsaturates can reduce LDL and HDL cholesterol. If you eat a lot of these, it is a good idea to replace some with monounsaturated fats. 

RDA is 10% of daily calorie intake. 



Monounsaturated fats have slightly less hydrogen because their carbon chains contain one double bond. Oils rich in monounsaturates are usually liquid at room temperature, but may solidify in cool temperatures. 

Monounsaturated have the greatest health benefits in reducing cholesterol.


RDA is 12% of  daily calorie intake.

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Saturated fats are fully saturated with the maximum amount of hydrogen. These are hard at room temperature and mostly come from animal products., palm and coconut oil. 

Saturated fats are the main cause of heart disease because they increase total cholesterol and LDL's.

RDA is 10% of daily calorie intake.

How much fat do we eat in our diets? 

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM, 2000) recommend athletes consume 20-25% of their energy from fats. However, according to the British Nutrition Foundation (NDNS, 2011) the average values for men and women in the United Kingdom were 35% and 34.4% retrospectively. This is a reduction from the previous study in 1986 / 1987, having fallen from 40%. Saturated fats have also been on the decline lowering from 17% to 12.8% and 12.6% of food energy for men and women respectively. This indicated that fat is a lower risk contributor to the health than previous years.

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