Salmon - a typical food with no fats

Fats and their function

The functions of fats within our bodies are so versatile. It is important that we know these functions so that we can fully appreciate fats and make sure we don’t skimp out on consuming them. Fats include triglycerides, cholesterol, and essential fatty acids. Triglycerides are found in foods such as vegetable oils and animal fats but the body can also make them from excess carbohydrates, protein or fat intake that we don’t use after we eat.

Triglycerides are the main fat storage that provides our body with energy for later use, insulates us, helping to keep our internal temperature controlled and also gives us some padding to protect us against intense activities. It is necessary for our bodies to have fat cells, otherwise it would run out of energy unless we were constantly eating food. Saying this, it is important to try to have a moderate amount of fat storage and not an excessive amount that can lead to a chronic disease.

Cholesterol is only an issue when you have too much low density lipoproteins (LDLs), which is considered bad cholesterol, in your blood. This can occur from a high intake of saturated and trans fats, smoking, low physical activity, genetics, and being overweight or obese.

Cholesterol is used in cell membranes to help with fluidity and it is also used to synthesize hormones and vitamin D from sunlight. The majority of cholesterol we need is formed in our liver but it can also be found in foods, such as dairy foods.

Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats come from vegetable sources, such as seeds and avocado and are greatly useful for a range of bodily functions. Essential fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat and are exactly that…ESSENTIAL. Our bodies cannot produce these fats that are named Omega 3 or Omega 6 fatty acids. They have a vast range of functions but to name just a few, they help make joints move effectively, improve immunity, regulate oxygen use, ensure proper nerve transmission and help transport cholesterol in our blood. Omega 3 can be found in chia seeds, oily fish and flax seeds and omega 6 can be found in peanut butter, almonds and eggs.

Try and eat a range of fats, limiting only your saturated and trans fats from fatty animal sources and processed foods as these increase your risk of heart disease.