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Fats are the densest source of energy in the body, yielding twice the amount of calories per gram compared to protein and carbohydrates (nine calories per gram). Although we tend to consider fat "bad," our bodies need some fat to function optimally. Along with their role as an energy source, fats have other important functions:
- They are the precursor (cholesterol) to hormones
- They bring in important nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K
- They provide a sensation of fullness
- They allow a more efficient transmission of electrical signals in the body
Fats have been much maligned in the past thirty years, but they are essential nutrients. Fat makes you feel full, and it makes things taste good. In addition, our bodies need the fat in foods to absorb vitamins like vitamin A for healthy skin and eyes; vitamins D and K for healthy bones and blood; and vitamin E for its antioxidant properties. Fats from whole foods -such as those found in dairy products, nuts, seeds, meats, and fish - contribute to healthy nerve development, hormonal balance, and sustained energy.
When it comes to fat, your brain actually needs healthy fat in your diet. Fat in your brain is not excess-calorie fat; it’s used to mylenate (or hard-wire) your neural pathways. The fat helps you learn or get more coordinated. Without adequate fat, your brain capacity shrinks. DHA omega-3 fat makes up about 60 percent of the fat in your brain. It is your “smart fat.”
The cerebral cortex--the part of the brain that does all of your key thinking--actually shrinks if you don’t get enough dietary fat over a long enough period of time. Besides keeping your brain fit and functioning, fat is also responsible for the shine and texture of your hair and the firmness of breasts in girls; if you lose enough weight and body fat, they get saggy.
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.