Some types of vitamins rely on fat for absorption and storage. Vitamins A, D, E and K, called fat-soluble vitamins, cannot function without adequate daily fat intake. These vitamins are essential parts of your daily diet. Vitamin A keeps your eyes healthy and promotes good vision, vitamin D assists in keeping your bones strong by boosting calcium absorption, vitamin E protects cells by neutralising free radicals and vitamin K is important for blood clotting. If you don’t meet your daily fat intake or follow a low-fat diet, absorption of these vitamins may be limited resulting in impaired functioning.
Fat cells, stored in adipose tissue, insulate your body and help sustain a normal core body temperature. Adipose tissue is not always visible, but if you are overweight, you may be able to see it under your skin. You might notice an abundance of adipose tissue in certain areas, causing lumpy patches around your thighs and stomach. Other stored fats surround vital organs and keep them protected from sudden movements or outside impacts.
Rather than adopting a low-fat diet, it’s more important to focus on eating beneficial “good” fats and avoiding harmful “bad” fats. Fat is an important part of a healthy diet. Choose foods with “good” unsaturated fats, limit foods high in saturated fat, and avoid “bad” trans fat.
Eat at least Two 3-4 oz servings per week of fish and seafood including at least one serving of oily (dark meat) fish.
|Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids|
|Food||Milligrams (mg) omega-3s per serving (3.5 oz or about 1/2 cup)|
|Tuna, white, albacore||850|
|Eggs||50 per egg|
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people with documented heart disease get about 1 gram of EPA plus DHA per day, preferably from fatty fish. But for many people, that goal may be tough to reach. You’d have to eat 2 to 3 ounces of wild salmon or 4 ounces of white tuna (canned in water) every single day. Other studies have suggested that a lower amount, about 250 mg of EPA plus DHA per day, may give you most of the benefit.
If you don’t care for fish (or that much fish), or you want to be sure to get your daily omega-3s, you may want to take fish oil capsules, which are widely available over the counter. Although the contents of these supplements aren’t directly regulated by the FDA, several studies have shown that the commonly available brands in reputable stores contain the stated ingredients. Fish oil contains no mercury (mercury binds to protein, not fat), and very low amounts of other contaminants.
One capsule a day usually supplies about 200 to 400 mg of EPA plus DHA, and should be enough for most people. Higher doses – 2 to 4 grams of EPA plus DHA per day – are needed for people who wish to substantially lower their triglycerides. If you’re one of these people, talk to your doctor about taking prescription fish oil, which has been concentrated to contain about 900 mg of EPA plus DHA per capsule.
For some, fish oil capsules can be hard to swallow and may leave a fishy aftertaste after burping. Keeping the capsules in the freezer before taking them can help or try odourless or deodorised capsules. For strict vegetarians, V-Pure capsules contain EPA and DHA extracted from algae, which is where fish get them.
Over all, although several trials have shown benefits of taking fish oil in different populations, remember that most long-term studies have evaluated people who eat fish. So eating fish ought to be your first choice for getting omega-3s, if possible.
Eat 5–6 teaspoons per day, including oil found in foods.
What about tropical oils, such as coconut or palm oils? The food industry likes to tout the benefits of tropical oils, while dietary guidelines shun these oils. Who is right? These oils have complex effects on blood cholesterol levels—for example, raising “bad” LDL cholesterol but also raising “good” HDL cholesterol, among many other effects. Unfortunately, their effects on other risks for heart disease and, more importantly, on actual heart events (such as heart attacks) are almost wholly unknown. For now, stick to vegetable oils. There’s stronger evidence that these oils are heart healthy. If you do want to eat something once in a while that contains coconut or palm oil, enjoy it as a treat—it’s better than eating something with trans fat, which these tropical oils often replace.