Lowering, limiting, and eliminating fat from the diet has been a trend and weight loss rumor for decades now. Low fat milk, no-fat yogurt, low-fat crackers, you see it everywhere in the grocery store. What if I told you that fat plays multiple essential roles in our bodies? It’s true! Dietary fats are so important for a multitude of reasons. To drastically reduce fat intake or eliminate would impact these functions (in a bad way). Let’s look together at the different functions that dietary fat provides for our bodies.
Dietary Fat Functions Include:
Insulation: There are two different general storage sites for fat in the body: subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is the layer of adipose (fat) tissue that lays just under the skin. The primary purpose for this layer of fatty tissue is to provide insulation for the body; it helps maintain body temperature. This is important because our bodies always want to be in a state of homeostasis, or in balance.
Internal padding (protection): Remember I just mentioned subcutaneous fat and visceral fat – well, the internal padding between your organs to keep them safe is the visceral fat. There is a downside, if there is too much visceral fat this is where cases of central obesity can occur which increases the risk of some chronic illnesses. However, having not too much visceral fat is healthy and important to protect your internal organs.
Essential fatty acids: If you follow me on Instagram (which you should right here!) you know I recently talked about these essential fatty acids and where to find them on my stories. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids because they must be obtained from the diet – the body cannot produce them on its own. They are important for their own reasons, but generally serve the functions of nerve function/development, bone development, and omega-3 is an anti-inflammatory, just to name a few.
Cellular membranes and lipoproteins: Our cells have a membrane that is made of molecules called phospholipids. The scientific name for fat is lipid, and lipid is right in the name of phospholipids indicating that it is important in its structure. These membranes keep the cell safe, allow for controlled diffusion of electrolytes into and out of the cell, and help keep the cells structure. Lipoproteins are molecules that carry dietary fat from the liver throughout the bloodstream to where it’s needed and then back to the liver to be excreted. You may have heard of HDL and LDL – these are both different types of lipoproteins and they are very important!
What Are The Best Sources of Dietary Fat?
There are many food sources to obtain adequate healthy dietary fat, found as an oil or solid fat. Solid fats at room temperature are saturated fats – these are not the healthiest option because if eaten in excess it can lead to conditions like atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) which can then impact heart function. It’s okay to consume in moderation, like with any food, just be aware of how much saturated fat is in your diet. Saturated fat is most commonly found in animal products as well as coconut oil. Oils are liquid at room temperature meaning they are unsaturated fats – these are the healthier options to choose more often. Common oils that are great to include in a healthy lifestyle are peanut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and canola oil. Nuts and seeds are also good sources of unsaturated fats.
The Bottom Line
Don’t listen to the person that suggests cutting out fat to lose weight because 1) it won’t work, and 2) you would be inhibiting all of these functions that your body needs to perform to stay healthy and functional. Stick to the more healthful fat sources. Saturated fat (solid at room temperature) is ok once in a while but try to pick unsaturated fats (liquid at room temperature) when you can.
Want to know more about how dietary fat should fit into your lifestyle? Book your free 10-minute consultation with me here!