You may not have heard this before: including the right source and form of fat in your diet is not only important but also essential. In fact, women who always shy away from fat need it more than anyone.
According to nutritionists, fat boosts energy levels, balances female hormones, increases one’s fertility, improves mood, and keeps the skin glowing.
Even though nutritionists have achieved much in ensuring that the word “fat” evokes fear in people, this nutrient may not be responsible for all the health woes that befall mankind. Generally, fat is the popular food to avoid when it comes to healthy eating; but scientists now say that having the right amount of fat on your body may not be so bad, after all.
They did not only highlight the benefits of fat to the body, they also state why we should include it in our diet.
Surprised? Yes! Fat serves many purposes in the body; and that is why it is a class of food that should be included in any balanced diet.
Nutritionists say though we so rarely think of fat as our friend, it actually does so much for us.
Dietician and nutritionist, Dr. James Sanusi, says fat is one of the major sources of energy that we need for daily activities. He says it is available to the body in two forms – liquid forms such as cholesterols, lipids or oils; and solid form called … well, fats.
The expert notes that though the skin covers it such that it is not visible, every individual has more than three per cent of solid fat in their bodies. It is called adipose tissue and it is found in places like the female breasts, hips, thighs, buttocks and belly; or in the male, abdomen and shoulders.
Sanusi notes that this visible body fat is the medium in which energy is stored in the body, and it serves as the fuel for many of the metabolic, locomotive and mental activities going on in the brain.
He says, “A healthy body needs some fat, which contains essential nutrients. The body uses fat from the diet to make tissue and manufacture biochemicals such as hormones. With the exception of cholesterol, fats are high-energy nutrients.
“Fats have more than twice as much energy potential or calories as protein and carbohydrates. The body takes the nutrients it gets from the fat in our diet and stores it as energy in the body fat so we can use it later.”
Another research states that fat is a major component of many hormones or chemicals manufactured in the body. Scientists in the ACS’ monthly Journal of Proteome Research note that fat secretes dozens of hormones and other chemical messengers.
They add that most sex hormones like progesterone, estrogen, testosterone and cortisone contain steroids that are produced from fatty acids and other biological substances in the body.
Fat is also a source of protein, which is needed for body building and growth. Dr. Anja Rosenow and colleagues in a research identified 80 different proteins produced by fat cells. Rosenow states that fat is one of the foods that help protein synthesis (production).
She adds that body fat also manages immune and nervous systems. These include six new proteins and 20 proteins that have not been previously detected in human fat cells.
The findings could pave the way for a better understanding of the role that hormone-secreting fat cells play in regulating the way the body functions.
She says, “Within our fat, hormones and proteins talk to one another to keep the body running. A component of myelin, the fatty material that sheathes nerve cells and makes it possible for them to fire the electrical messages that enable you to think, see, speak, move, and perform the multitude of tasks natural to a living body. The brain tissue also is rich in fat.”
Even though it is obvious, many do not know that fat is the cushion and shock absorber that protects the bones and organs in the body.
Rosenow describes fat – or adipose tissue, as it is called – when it is stored in the body as much a foam cushion that protects internal organs like the liver and kidneys as much as possible from injury in case of a fall or accident, so that no harm comes to them.
Can the body be too low in fat? Rosenow answers in the positive for both sexes. She says that if a man’s body fat is less than three per cent, his health may be compromised, because normal, healthy functioning requires some fat.
“He may become more susceptible to illness or experience chronic fatigue. Remember that three per cent is the amount of body fat considered to be essential for men.
Based on current information, a woman must have a minimum fat of 13-17 per cent for regular menstruation.
“If a woman’s per cent body fat is too low, her periods may stop and she may experience infertility. Her menstrual irregularities may also compromise the health of her bones, as normal hormonal function is necessary for bone health,” she adds.
They note that individuals who suffer from eating disorders may suffer from anorexia (chronic weight loss; they can lose large amounts of fat, looking thin and unhealthy, and they may need to consult a physician to help them with weight gain.
However, fats may also be hazardous to your health. The trick is separating the good from the bad.