Functions of Fats in the Body

Everyone needs to include fat in their diet as it helps the body maintain its core temperature and absorb nutrients and provides us with energy. Although we need to consume fat every day in order for our body to support these functions, it is important to keep in mind that certain fats are good for you while others are not. Good fats work to keep our bodies healthy and protect our hearts but bad fats can do the opposite, damaging your heart and increasing the risk of disease. Read on to learn about all the function of fats in the body and sources of healthy fat.

Functions of Fats in the Body

1. Provide Energy

Although the main source of energy for our bodies is carbohydrates, fat is used as a source of backup energy in cases when carbohydrates are not available. This is a concentrated energy source but it is important to remember that each gram of fat has nine calories (over double the calories from protein and carbohydrates) so you should avoid having more than 20 to 35% of your daily calories from fat. In a 1,800 calorie diet, you should only consume 40-70 grams of fat.

2. Absorb Vitamins

Certain vitamins, which are known as fat-soluble, need fat in order to be absorbed and stored. Some examples include vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K, all of which are an essential part of anyone’s daily diet. Vitamin A is responsible for promoting good vision and keeping our eyes healthy; vitamin D helps us absorb calcium; vitamin E neutralized free radicals, protecting cells in the process; and vitamin K is essential for blood clotting. If you don’t have enough fat in your body, you become deficient in one or more of these vitamins.

3. Store Fat for Subsequent Use

Our bodies can also store fats to be used later on. If you consume food that includes more energy than the body needs to perform its normal functions, any excess food is stored as subcutaneous fat under the skin. Sometimes this adipose tissue will be stored in the thighs and stomach, causing lumpy patches. The body also stores fats around our vital organs to help protect them from outside impacts or any sudden movements.

4. Maintain Proper Body Temperature

You can also find a thin fat layer located right underneath the skin. This layer of fat is designed to insulate the body, keeping heat inside and therefore helping us maintain the proper body temperature. In addition to insulating, this layer of fat can also protect the inner core from extreme temperature changes. That is because when our skin temperatures significantly drop, our fat deposits will generate and then release heat which helps increase the temperature.

5. Protect Your Body

The body also has a layer of fat that is surrounding major organs (including the brain and heart), nerves, tissues and bones and this is designed to act like a protective cushion. If for some reason you experience a sudden impact or even severe trauma, this layer of fat will absorb as much of the shock as it can so it can protect these essential organs and structures from being significantly damaged.

6. Other Functions

Cells

Fats keep our cells healthy because they are a part of the essential membrane that can be found surrounding each of the body’s cells. It is important that each cell has a healthy cell membrane as without it, the cell wouldn’t be able to function. Fat is also used in the process of building new cells and it is essential for nerve function and normal brain development.

Brain

Fat also helps build the brain as it provides the structural components of the various cell membranes found in the brain. In addition, it also creates the structural components for myelin which is a fatty insulating sheath which surrounds the various nerve fibers, helping them carry messages more quickly.

Hormones

Fats are also responsible for making hormones. That is because they regulate the body’s production of the sex hormones; that is why some underweight teenage girls will experience puberty later than their peers. Fat is also one of the structural components of prostaglandins, which are one of the most crucial substances found in the body as these hormone-like substances regulate a great deal of the functions of the body.

Hair and Skin

Fat also helps maintain healthy hair and skin. That is because it helps our bodies absorb increased amounts of vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K through the bloodstream. That is why dry, flaky skin is a symptom of a deficiency in fatty acids. Subcutaneous fat (which is found just under the skin) not only helps round the skin, but also helps insulate the body, regulating body temperature in the process.

Recommended Sources of Healthy Fat

When looking for fat, you should always choose monounsaturated (MUAs) or polyunsaturated (PUFAs) ones. These types of fats help lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease as well as stabilize cholesterol levels. They can be found in cold-water fish, avocados, nuts and vegetable oils. Bad fats (trans and saturated fats) will raise LDL cholesterol which can raise blood pressure and harden the arteries, increasing the risk of stroke and heart attack. In fact, high density lipoprotein (good fats) help the body eliminate excessive amounts of low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Trans and saturated fats can be found in dairy, seafood, meat and processed foods.

1. Avocado

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Avocados have a high fat content but the good news is that most of this fat is monounsaturated which means it lowers bad cholesterol. It is still important to only eat them in moderation, however, because one medium avocado has around thirty grams of fat.

2. Eggs

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Eggs are a great source of protein as well as fat. Although the egg yolk is fatty, it also has crucial nutrients and in fact of among the five grams of fat found in an egg, only 1.5 grams are saturated. Entire eggs also contain choline (a B vitamin which regulates the cardiovascular and nervous systems as well as the brain).

3. Olive Oil

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Olive oil can help reduce your risk of certain cancers, blood pressure problems and heart disease, but there are 100 calories in each tablespoon so it is crucial to use it sparingly. You can either add a little in salad or use it in cooking.

4. Nuts

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People who eat nuts tend to have a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Nuts which contain healthy fat include almonds, walnuts and pistachios. Almonds contain vitamin E, walnuts have an omega-3 fatty acid and pistachios contain carotenoids that are essential for eye health.

5. Fatty Fish

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Oily fish (including tuna, trout and salmon) contain omega-3 fatty acids which are great for the body. Because of this, the American Heart Association recommends having two servings a week of fatty fish.

 
 
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