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Why Your Body Needs Some Fat to Be Healthy

A healthy body needs some fat, which contains essential nutrients. Your body uses dietary fat to make tissue and manufacture biochemicals, such as hormones. Fats in your diet are sources of energy that add flavor to food — the sizzle on the steak, you can say. However, fats may also be hazardous to your health. The trick is separating the good from the bad.

The chemical family name for fats and related compounds such as cholesterol is lipids. Liquid fats are called oils; solid fats are called, well, fat. With the exception of cholesterol, fats are high-energy nutrients. Gram for gram, fats have more than twice as much energy potential (calories) as protein and carbohydrates (affectionately referred to as carbs): 9 calories per fat gram versus 4 calories per gram for proteins and carbs.

Some of the body fat made from food fat is visible. Even though your skin covers it, you can see the fat in the adipose (fatty) tissue in female breasts, hips, thighs, buttocks, and belly or male abdomen and shoulders. This visible body fat

  • Provides a source of stored energy

  • Gives shape to your body

  • Cushions your skin (imagine sitting in your chair for a while as you enjoy your visit to Dummies.com without your buttocks to pillow your bones)

  • Acts as an insulation blanket that reduces heat loss

Other body fat is invisible. You can’t see this body fat because it’s tucked away in and around your internal organs. This hidden fat is

  • Part of every cell membrane (the outer skin that holds each cell together)

  • 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; brain tissue also is rich in fat

  • A shock absorber that protects your organs (as much as possible) if you fall or are injured

  • A constituent of hormones and other biochemicals, such as vitamin D and bile

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