The structure of fats

Fats Are Needed in Moderation


A little knowledge of the structure of fats will help you with healthier eating and exercise habits and give you the right kind of energy supply for regular exercise. Everyone needs some fat in their diet, as your body always prefers to use the most available fuels.

Eliminate all fats, and your body will worry about the lack of dietary fats and will store as much fat as possible. This leads to increased fat stores (body fat), and tiredness and fatigue from low body carbohydrate levels.

The basic unit of fat that your body uses as a fuel is called a triglyceride. Triglycerides look like a kite with three tails and, like carbohydrates, the name tells you about their structure.

The “tri” stands for the three tails of the kite. These tails are called “fatty acids” long chains of (you guessed it) carbon atoms. If the carbons have all their arms full of hydrogens, they are called “saturated” fatty acids (found in animal fats).

If some of the carbon atom’s arms are empty, then the fatty acids are called unsaturated or polyunsaturated (commonly found in vegetable fats and vegetable oils). Our bodies evolved in a lean and hungry world where fats were not plentiful.

So to allow your body to stay healthy, reduce the amount of fats, and especially saturated fats, that you eat. The glyceride stands for the body of the kite. During digestion, the three tails are ripped off and absorbed, and then broken down to release energy for metabolism or muscle movement.

The glyceride is kept, and after a meal, more fatty acid tails can be attached to it. Fats are used to construct many other compounds and tissues vital for the normal functioning of the body, such as cholesterol.

Cholesterol is used as part of the walls of the cells in our body. Normally, we only make as much cholesterol as we need. If we eat more saturated fats or cholesterol than we need, then our natural, healthy levels of cholesterol will be upset.

We will have too much cholesterol in our bloodstream, and this extra cholesterol can be trapped on the inside of blood vessel walls, increasing blood pressure, or forming clots. These factors are implicated in coronary heart disease. Cholesterol is not a fatty acid but is a fat structure manufactured inside us from fatty acids.

Food that you buy can have “Cholesterol Free” on the label, and still be high in saturated fats. Your body will manufacture cholesterol from these saturated fats, and your blood cholesterol level will still go up.

“Cholesterol Free” labeling is a bit deceptive, as very few vegetables or vegetable products have cholesterol in them. Cholesterol is found mainly in animal fats, such as egg yolks. I should mention the structure of proteins. Proteins are chains of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen (like fats and carbohydrates).

The difference is that the carbon chains in proteins are much longer and more complicated, and they contain nitrogen and sulfur. The basic protein structures are called amino acids. Amino acids are stuck together to form proteins such as the muscles and red blood cells of your body.

High protein, low-fat diets can still make you fat. Because protein resembles carbohydrates and fats (long chains of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen), it can also be used as a fuel, or converted to fats and stored as body fat.

The nitrogen and sulfur bits are broken off and excreted, usually in your urine (this is why your urine is yellow!). High protein diets can damage your kidneys, as the kidneys are put under a huge strain, trying to get rid of all the nitrogen and sulfur wastes.

If your body is storing large amounts of body fat, it needs a structure to support the fat. It sets up a network of protein strands (called “collagen”) that weave through the fat, and attach to the skin.

The tension of the collagen strands can pull the skin inwards. This gives the “dimpling” effect that can be a problem on the thighs or arms of females or the stomach of males.

This combination of body fat stores and supporting fibers is often called cellulite. Cellulite is just a polite way of saying fat. You can’t make a permanent reduction in body fat by rubbing or massage, creams, plastic wraps, or heat.

Ask people what is the most fattening food, and they will usually respond with “potatoes!”. Potatoes are almost totally made up of complex carbohydrates and fiber, which are great for you in moderation.

What is not good for you is the extras that go with the baked potato, usually fats. For example, a whole baked potato has about 95 calories, but one tablespoon of sour cream added to your potato will add 30 calories to your meal, with none of the fiber benefits.

A well-balanced diet and regular exercise are the formulae for permanent low body fat levels. Eat lots of complex carbohydrates and fiber, and tiny amounts of fats and simple carbohydrates.

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