Good fats, bad fats?

Fats have a bad reputation - but they definitely belong on our menu. Find out here which fats are good and which are bad for your body and why. Because fats play an important role in our body. They are vital for our brain, our nerves, for every single cell and therefore for our general health.

What are fats anyway?

Fats are also known under the term lipids and, in our everyday language, are mainly found in the area of ​​nutrition. The "building blocks" of fats are the fatty acids, just like the simple sugars are in carbohydrates and the amino acids are in proteins. In fact, there are different types of fats, namely fatty acids, fats and fatty oils, waxes, and a few others (phospholipids, sphingolipids and isoprenoids). Today, however, we will focus primarily on the first two groups.

So back to nutrition! Here, fat acts as an ideal flavor and aroma carrier, which is why it is so often fried with butter and oils when cooking. In fact, fat is primarily there to generate energy. At 9 calories per gram, fat contains twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrates. These have a calorific value of around 4 kilocalories per gram.

What is the function of fats in the body?

Fats have several functions, but the most important one: Once bound in the body, it functions as a long-term store for energy. So fat can be a real energy booster for you - but and this is very important - only in moderation! Because too much fat overwhelms your body and can harm it (more on that below). The recommended amount of the respective energy requirement that an adult person should consume from fats per day is about 30%. As a general rule of thumb, you can remember that no matter how much you weigh, you shouldn't eat more than 60 to 80 grams of fat per day.

Further functions of bound fat are insulation against temperatures and mechanical protection. In addition, fat helps to metabolize other important nutrients in the first place. The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, for example, can only be absorbed through fat and require so-called essential fatty acids for this process. For example, it is recommended to garnish raw carrots in a salad with an oil so that your body can absorb the vitamins in the first place.

What is the difference between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids?

You have probably heard the terms saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. But do you know the difference and what they mean for your body? Structurally, fatty acids generally consist of up to 26 carbon atoms in chain formation. If these atoms are partly or completely doubly connected to each other, then you have an unsaturated fatty acid. If there are no double bonds between the carbon atoms, then it is a saturated fatty acid.
Saturated fatty acids.are considered the “bad” fats because they are known to increase cholesterol levels when consumed in excess. This in turn can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
However, they also have important tasks, for example they act as messengers for our nervous system. Therefore, please do not completely eliminate saturated fatty acids from your diet, just enjoy them in moderation.

Unsaturated fatty acids.have a reputation for being the “good” fats. Here it is again divided into mono (omega-9) and poly (omega-3 and omega-6) unsaturated fatty acids. The monounsaturated fatty acids are very important for vitamin absorption in the body and can lower cholesterol levels in the body. Your body cannot produce these fats itself, but it urgently needs them. That's why you have to get them externally in the form of food. They are considered essential foods.

Which fatty acids have which properties and where are they found?

Type of fat Effect Contained in
Omega-3 fatty acids
They ensure that our cells remain stable, support our memory, strengthen our immune system and help to reduce inflammation in our body, because anti-inflammatory fat homones can be formed from them. Rheumatism patients in particular should therefore make sure they consume long-chain omega-3 fatty acids! They also have the ability to dilate vessels and thus reduce the risk of developing thrombosis.
Especially in fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel and vegetable oils: olives, rapeseed, flaxseed and algae.
Omega-6 fatty acids
They are used for growth and repair processes, help in the formation of tissue hormones and promote (good) inflammation as a kind of protective mechanism of the immune system, for example in the case of infections.
In animal fats from meat and dairy products and sunflower and corn oil.
Omega-9 fatty acids
They are very relevant for vitamin absorption from food and can also lower cholesterol levels.
Generally found in vegetable oils from nuts and avocados. But especially in olive oil.

IMPORTANT: Your body needs all of these fatty acids, they are essential for healthy functioning. However, for the most part, he cannot make them himself. So make sure you get enough of it through food. Unfortunately, in the western world, too much omega-6 is consumed through food, resulting in an average ratio of 15:1. Studies have shown that this promotes many diseases, including chronic ones. The two fatty acids should actually be consumed in a much lower ratio, as they have opposite effects that ideally neutralize each other (trigger and inhibit inflammation, narrow and widen blood vessels).

When are fats unhealthy?

It becomes unhealthy when we consume too much fat. What happens then you ask yourself? In general, an excessive intake of fat, no matter what type, can lead to health problems for you. This means, among other things, being overweight, elevated blood lipid levels, high blood pressure or heart disease.

In conclusion, it can be said: fat does not directly mean bad and unhealthy! In fact, fat in moderation is essential for a balanced diet and many metabolic processes in the body. The omega fatty acids in particular should be firmly integrated into your diet. Conversely, note that many foods contain fats. Since these are very nutritious with 9 kilocalories per gram of fat, the "healthy" fats also make themselves felt, so enjoy everything in moderation.


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