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Fat is a nutrient, just like protein and carbohydrate. It is a source of energy. Fat contains, among other things, fatty acid, an important building material in the body. Fats can be used for preparing food or making food taste better. A distinction is made between saturated fats, unsaturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fat is less healthy than unsaturated fat.
Saturated fats and unsaturated fats come from nature. Saturated fats are often animal fats and are less healthy. Unsaturated fats are often healthy and are found in plants, fish and nuts. Fat in food products is always made up of a combination of both. Trans fats are industrially created fats and are harmful to health.
Saturated fats are found in whole dairy products, fatty meats, butter, cookies, chocolate and pastries. Unsaturated fats are found in vegetable oil, liquid baking and frying products, diet margarine in a tub, fish and nuts. Trans fat is found in biscuits, cakes and snacks.
Fat generally has a negative reputation: a person gets fat. Fat also plays a role in diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, overweight and cancer. Yet our bodies need daily fat for:
- Energy storage. When a person eats too much, the body stores the extra energy as fat in adipose tissue. The next day, the body addresses this reserve again. A small reserve is therefore good, but too much fat storage is harmful.
- Building material. Each cell needs fats. Fats are an important part of brains, nerves and hormones.
- Better uptake of vitamins. Foods that contain fat are often also a source of vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins dissolve only in fat and not in water.
- Protection. Fat is a form of insulation. It protects the body from cold and it protects organs and nerve cells from damage.
- The body cannot produce all the fatty acids by itself. Therefore, it’s important to take these via the food. These are essential fatty acids.
- Replacing saturated fat and trans fat by unsaturated fat has a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels in blood. This reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- Omega 3 fatty acids from fish also reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. They play an important role in brain development and eyesight of unborn babies.
- In the beginning of the seventies of the last century, the number of cardiovascular diseases increased at an alarming rate and it was discovered that the amount of unhealthy fat in the food played an important role.