The word ‘fat’ has certainly got a bad reputation, and there has been much debate within the nutrition world as to which fats we should consume and in what quantities. As new research on the topic of dietary fat continues to provide insight, it becomes much easier to know how we can best preserve our health!

Today we are going to take a look at the importance of including fats in the diet! The following points are explanations of the essential functions of dietary fat, and should help to clarify why it's certainly beneficial to optimum health to include healthy fats in the diet.

Protection of the Internal Organs

There is a layer of fat around your organs which serves to provide a certain amount of protection and insulation. Your internal organs are fairly delicate, and can incur damage from impact. This layer of fat helps to minimise any damage, and also helps to keep the organs in place.

Nerve Cell Function

Similarly to how fat protects the internal organs, it also has an insulating role when it comes to the nerve cells. Each nerve cells is wrapped in a layer of fat that is referred to as the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath is an important component of the nerve cells that helps messages to be sent efficiently.

Thermoregulation

The layer of fat directly under the skin, also known as subcutaneous fat, provides insulation to the internal environment of the body. To put it simply, it helps the body to maintain an optimum temperature, which is pivotal to homeostasis (balance within the body). 

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

If you do not consume enough dietary fat then you might begin to experience a deficiency of the fat-soluble vitamins - A, D, E, and K.

These vitamins require the presence of dietary fat if they are to be used properly by the body. This means that even if you are consuming ample amounts of these vitamins themselves, that the body will be unable to utilise them effectively, and a deficiency may still occur.

Vitamin A is found in abundance in carrots, broccoli, and cantaloupe. Vitamin D can be found in high levels in tuna, cheese, and eggs. Spinach, kale, and nuts are all fantastic sources of vitamin E. And finally, exciting amounts of vitamin K can be found in Swiss chard, cauliflower, and cabbage. 

Energy

Fat is one of the main sources of energy used by the body to function. If you do not consume enough fat, then certain energy systems within the body will be unable to function at their best.

Healthy Cells

Each of the cells in the body is surrounded by a membrane, which consists of a double layer of fat. This membrane helps to keep the cells healthy, which in turn keeps our hair and skin looking fresh and radiant - among many other things!

If you do not consume enough dietary fat then one of the first clues may be that your skin and hair begins to look dull with obvious signs of ageing.

Oestrogen Function

The storage of oestrogen takes place in adipose tissue (fat). When body fat levels decrease past a healthy point then reproductive function will be detrimentally affected.

A lowered amount of oestrogen can also impede the health of the bones. This is because this essential hormone contributes to the creation of osteoblasts, which are bone making cells. Without ample osteoblasts then the growth and strength of the bones will be hindered. This can then lead to further health problems, such as osteoporosis.

Appetite and Satiety

When fat is present in food then it is generally the case that flavour is enhanced and that the satiety value of the meal is higher. This means that you will feel fuller for longer after consuming food that contains fat.

Improved flavour levels can also of course mean that the meal is more enjoyable.

Essential Fatty Acids

The essential fatty acids - omega-3 and omega-6 - are key to optimum health and can be consumed through a range of foods. These acids are referred to as essential because the body is unable to make them on its own.

Essential fatty acids have many roles:

  • Protection against heart disease
  • Prevention of blood clots
  • Beneficial effect on blood lipid profiles
  • Enhanced oxygen transportation
  • Improved immune system function
  • Cell membrane maintenance

When your omega-3 levels are at an adequate level then you will likely sleep better, have lower blood pressure, and have improved memory function. Omega-3 can also help to soothe your skin, encouraging a fresh appearance.

Consuming an adequate amount of omega-6 fatty acids is important for several reasons. First of all it helps to combat inflammation in the body, which is important when it comes to maintaining optimum health. Omega-6 also keeps blood pressure down, lowers the risk of heart disease, and also supports bone health!

References

1) https://www.eufic.org/en/whats-in-food/article/facts-on-fats-dietary-fats-and-health