Fats and Diabetes
What is a fat?
Fat is one of the three main macronutrients consumed by humans — the other two being protein and carbohydrates. It is naturally occurring in animals as a layer beneath the skin and around organs; and in plants.
Functions of fats
Fat is an essential food component for humans and other mammals. The body is designed to store fat for protection, warmth, and energy. During times of food scarcity, the stored fat is broken down to provide nutrition to essential organs and tissues. Other mammals store fat for insulation and nutrient support especially around times of hibernation.
In excess amounts, it can be detrimental leading to various life-threatening conditions such as coronary artery disease leading to heart attacks. When eaten in very large amounts, all fats, including healthy fats, can contribute to weight gain. Fat is higher in energy (kilojoules) than any other nutrient.
Types of fats and their sources in Kenya
Fats can generally be classified as unsaturated, saturated, and trans fats.
1. Unsaturated fats
Unsaturated fats are mostly derived from plant sources. They are considered “good fats” because of the benefits to the body such as improving healthy blood cholesterol levels, reducing swelling of tissues (inflammation), helping the heartbeat pump regularly, and boosting brain function. The two main types of unsaturated fat are:
a) Monounsaturated fats
They are considered good fats because they lower the levels of “bad cholesterol” (LDL) while raising levels of “good cholesterol” (HDL). They have been proven to reduce the occurrence of cardiovascular events such as coronary artery disease (example heart attack) and cerebrovascular events (stroke). There is emerging evidence of their role in stopping the deterioration of mental function in patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
- Mafuta ya canola, Olive oil, and peanut oil
- Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and peanuts
- Seeds such as pumpkin, Simsim seeds, and sesame seeds
b) Polyunsaturated fats
The sources from fish are considered rich in Omega-3 that has a myriad of benefits most importantly, improvement.
- Maize, soybeans, Chia seeds
- Fish such as sardines, Omena, Mbuta, Salmon, herring, and CodFish
2. Saturated Fats
Saturated fats are mainly from animal sources. In the past, saturated fats had a bad reputation of being the cause of heart disease but with recent research that is being refuted.
They have recently been found to be beneficial to body functions. When taken in moderation, they confer more protection in terms of improved energy levels, heart, and brain health as compared to those who completely eliminate them from their diets.
- Whole and reduced-fat milk, butter, and dairy desserts Cheese
- Meat products (sausage, bacon, beef, hamburgers)
- Cookies and other grain-based desserts
3. Trans fats
Fats are man-made fats that typically have a long-shelf-life, add taste to food, and can be produced in mass quantities for economic benefit.
They are considered “bad fats” to the extent the WHO called on governments worldwide to completely eliminate them from shelves worldwide.
They raise levels of bad fats and reduce the level of good fats in the body. They have been associated with obesity, cardiovascular events such as autoimmune diseases, heart attacks and strokes, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, and infertility.
- Frozen pizza.
- Microwave popcorn.
- Nondairy coffee creamer.
- Baked goods, such as cakes, cookies, and pies.
- Refrigerated dough, such as biscuits and rolls.
- Fried foods, including french fries, and doughnuts
Facts about fats
Fats are essential for proper body functions to be maintained Intake of unsaturated fats as opposed to trans fats will improve heart and brain health. Recent research proves that saturated starch protective.