What is Fat

Fats are one of the three main macronutrient groups in human diet, along with carbohydrates and proteins and the main components of common food products like milk, butter, tallow, lard, salt pork, and cooking oils. They are a major and dense source of food energy for many animals and play important structural and metabolic functions, in most living beings, including energy storage, waterproofing, and thermal insulation. The human body can produce the fat that it needs from other food ingredients, except for a few essential fatty acids that must be included in the diet. Dietary fats are also the carriers of some flavor and aroma ingredients and vitamins that are not water-soluble.

Victoria Middleton

Victoria Middleton

RD
Registered Dietitian
New York City, NY
Yumna Khan

Yumna Khan

RD
Registered Dietitian
Burlington, ON
Margarita deGraaf

Margarita deGraaf

RD
Registered Dietitian
Burlington, ON

Quiz: Do You Understand Fats?

Test your knowledge by answering the following questions:

Questions
True
False
1

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats raise bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in your blood.

Explanation:
Different types of fat have different effects on your cholesterol levels. Saturated fats and trans fats raise bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in your blood, while monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats can lower them.
2

Having high triglycerides can increase your risk of heart disease and may be a sign of metabolic syndrome.

Explanation:
While your body does need some triglycerides for energy, having high triglycerides can increase your risk of heart disease and may be a sign of metabolic syndrome. Causes of high triglycerides include obesity, kidney disease, hypothyroidism, poorly-controlled diabetes and certain medications.
3

A high-fat diet may increase your risk of depression.

Explanation:
Studies have shown that eating a high-fat diet can alter signaling mechanisms in the brain, which may lead to depression symptoms. Eating foods high in trans fats is also linked to decreased serotonin (sometimes called the 'happy chemical') levels. However, research shows that eating a diet high in healthy fats (e.g., avocado, olive oil, seeds) can actually contribute to positive mental health.
4

Foods that say “0 trans fat” are a healthy option.

Explanation:
Most nutritionists recommend replacing saturated fats and trans fats with monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Pay attention to labels when you’re shopping. Don’t be fooled by foods that say “0 trans fat,” as they can contain a lot of saturated fats and/or be high in added sugars.
5

Carbohydrates provide energy for exercise, but fats don't.

Explanation:
In addition to carbohydrates, fat provides energy for workouts and helps your body absorb vitamins. Look for healthy unsaturated fats (nuts, olive oil, avocado) to fuel your fitness routine.
(Answer all questions to activate)

Diana Steele, BSc, RD, discusses how to reduce saturated fats.

The Role of Fats in Our Diet

Fat is essential in our diet and it is one of the three macronutrients that make up the main components of our food.

Eating fat alone will not cause you to gain weight. You can think of fat in food as broken into saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Saturates mainly come from animal products whereas the unsaturated fats are plant based.

Fat plays many roles in the body. When it comes to your meal it can actually help you to fill up faster and feel full longer.

For example, if you were to choose a salad for lunch it would be best to choose a salad with mixed greens, some olive oil, avocado and a handful of nuts, as opposed to choosing just a mixed green salad with a fat free dressing. The former will keep you satisfied longer.

For more information on how you can include healthy fats into your diet, contact your local dietitian or medical professional.

Video filmed in conjunction with Sarah Ware, BSc (Hons), RD, CDE

Presenter: Ms. Sarah Ware, Registered Dietitian, North Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Registered Dietitian

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