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Fats are the most concentrated source of energy. One gram of fat provides some 9 calories of energy to the body. Fats provide the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
As amino acids are building blocks of protein, fatty acids are building blocks of fat. These fatty acids can be classified as follows:
1. Saturated Fats
Saturated fats have all single bonds in the fatty acid chain. So these fats are usually hard at room temperature and very high melting point. Fats that we receive from animal sources are saturated fats e.g. ghee, butter, cream, etc.
2. Unsaturated/Polyunsaturated Fats
Poly means many. Polyunsaturated fats have many double bonds in the chain of fatty acids. So they provide more fluidity and are usually liquid at room temperature. The fats obtained from plants are unsaturated fats e.g. soy bean oil, mustard oil, sunflower oil, etc.
3. Monounsaturated Fats
Mono means single. As the name implies – monounsaturated fats have single double bond in the fatty acid chain. All the other atoms are single bonded. So these fats have higher melting point than unsaturated fats and lower melting point than saturated fats. Fats obtained from the nuts are monounsaturated. All the cold pressed oils are monounsaturated e.g. olive oil, sesame oil, groundnut oil, tea seed oil, etc.
How Much Fat Should We Consume in a Day?
Fats should build up 20% of your diet with most of this fat coming from the monounsaturated fats. As per the RDA, daily intake of fat is roughly set at 75 gm for an average adult female and 95 gm for an average adult male. If you want to reduce your fat, you should not consume more than 40 gm fat in a day.
Saturated fat RDA
RDA of saturated fat is 20 gm out of total fat RDA. More fat than this can cause many heart diseases and increase the cholesterol level. Those who do manual labour can consume extra saturated fat. One glass of full cream milk (buffalo milk) contains 8 gm of saturated fat.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA)
Essential Fatty Acids are required in human diet, as they can't be synthesized internally. There are two families of EFAs:
1. Omega 3: Omega 3 fatty acid is required by the body to prevent cancer, heart diseases, brain abnormalities and to build immunity. The main sources of Omega 3 are fish, shellfish, and fish oils.
2. Omega 6: The main sources of omega 6 are eggs, cereals, avocado, whole grain, vegetable oils, etc.
It is important for good health that both should be consumed in roughly equal proportions. These essential fatty acids are family of all unsaturated fatty acids.
Olive Oil is the Best for Cooking
Don't fry anything, if possible. Heating the oil changes the molecular structure of foods and renders them harmful. If you need to cook something in oil, use olive oil and cook at low temperature. Olive oil has a suitable balance of saturated and monounsaturated fats and suffers the least damage from cooking.
Note: Fish oil can be harmful for diabetics since they can cause an increase in blood sugar and a decline in insulin secretion.
Read about Vitamins
Read about Proteins
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