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Why fats are necessary for you too!

Fat is a critical nutrient, and certain types of fat, such as omega-3s and omega-6s, are needed for good health.

Written by Editorial Team |Published : January 13, 2014 11:35 AM IST

fatty acidsHow much one should eat to stay fit, healthy and disease-free?

Consume between 20-35 percent of your calories from dietary fat, increase consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, according to a research.

According to a latest paper from the US-based Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, dietary fat for the healthy adult population should provide 20-35 percent of energy, with an increased consumption of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and limited intake of saturated and trans fats.

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'Nutritionists can help people understand that a total diet approach is more beneficial than simply reducing dietary fat and replacing it with carbohydrates, as a high intake of refined carbohydrate can also negatively affect health,' said the study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The paper recommended a food-based approach through a diet that includes regular consumption of fatty fish, nuts and seeds, lean meats and poultry, low-fat dairy products, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. (Read: The omega-3 controversy can it cause cancer?)

A simple and effective way to improve health is to eat more fish, nuts and seeds and to consume fewer desserts and convenience foods, it added.

'Fat is a critical nutrient, and certain types of fat, such as omega-3s and omega-6s, are needed for good health. For this and other health reasons, a fat-free diet is not recommended,' it noted.

Fish is an excellent source of the omega-3s EPA and DHA while flax, walnuts and canola oil are good sources of ALA omega-3.

Different foods provide different types of fat. Some fats improve your health (omega-3s help your heart and brain) while some are detrimental to your health (trans fat increases heart disease risk factors), the paper said.

What are Omega 3 fatty acids?

Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids ('essential' because they cannot be synthesized by the human body).

How do Omega 3 fatty acids benefit our health?

  • Improves blood cholesterol levels: According to studies, fish, fish oil and walnuts can decrease triglyceride levels. People who eat fatty fish tend to have increased HDL cholesterol and decreased triglycerides.
  • Prevents heart disease: A diet low in saturated fat and rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (including omega-3 fatty acids) helps prevent heart disease. Fish oil has been shown to reduce arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), risk of stroke and helps prevent and treat atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of artery). Fish oil supplements taken after a heart attack cuts the risk of having another heart attack.
  • Regulates important physiological functions - Some studies suggest that Omega-3 fats play an important role in the production of prostaglandinswhich are known toregulate important physiological functions like blood pressure, blood clotting, nerve transmission, allergic responses, etc.
  • Helps improve symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis: Various studies have found that fish oil supplements EPA and DHA significantly reduced stiffness and joint pain of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). They also seem to enhance the efficacy of anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Reduces depression levels: Researchers have found that people eating foods with high levels of omega-3s have lower levels of depression. Fish oil also seems to increase the effects of antidepressants and help reduce mood swings.
  • Increase bone strength: Omega-3 fatty acids may help increase calcium levels in the body thereby improving bone strength, although not all results were positive. People with deficiency of essential fatty acids EPA and GLA may have more bone loss than those with normal levels of these fatty acids.
  • Protection against Dementia and Alzheimer's: Decreased intake of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with increased risk of dementia. Scientists believe that omega-3 fatty acid DHA is protective against Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
  • Reduces risk of cancer: An Omega-3 fatty acid rich diet seems to reduce the risk and prevents worsening of colon cancer. Women who eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids over many years may be less likely to develop breast cancer and prostate cancer. Low fat diet including omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oil helps prevent the development of prostate cancer.
  • Slows aging: According to researchers, taking enough omega-3 fatty acid supplements could slow a key biological process linked to aging. (Read: Omega 3 fatty acids why you need them in your diet)

With inputs from IANS

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