How to Eat the Right Fats

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Lipids, also known as fats, make up one group of essential macronutrients. With all the contradictory information available today, the truth on fats can be difficult to discern. Though we need fat in our diets, too much can be detrimental to our health. When we consume a diet high in fats, we increase our risk of obesity, heart disease, and cancer. A moderate intake of fat can provide our bodies with energy and essential vitamins including vitamins A, D, E, and K.

The fats in our diet are the only source for three of the essential fatty acids. A healthy amount of fats and oils in your diet will provide a reserve of energy, crucial to survival if your intake of calories becomes insufficient. In addition, fats play a vital role in the regulation of body temperature, and the protection of internal organs.

A healthy level of fat consumption will represent at least 10%, but no more than 25% of one's total caloric intake. Our diets are comprised of three forms of fats. These include saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats. A general assessment of these would result in the classification of saturated and trans fats as "bad fats" and unsaturated fats as "good fats". The main difference between each of these groups is the length and saturation of their fatty acid chains. The degree of saturation is determined by the number of hydrogen molecules in the chain. A chain with the maximum amount of hydrogen molecules is considered saturated. Intuitively, one might guess that a chain with fewer hydrogen molecules characterizes an unsaturated fat.