Why do I need fat in my diet?
With all the bad press that fat has received over the last thirty years, you may not even think of it as a nutrient, or that fat deficiency is even possible. However, getting enough fat (also known as lipids) in your diet is necessary for a number of reasons.
Taste, texture, time
Fat provides flavor and satiety. Without it, many foods would lose their savor and you would find yourself hungry all of the time.
One of the advantages of eating a meal or snack with some fat in it is that it takes more time to get through your digestive system, which means you feel satisfied longer. In addition, the fat in your food will allow a more steady release of glucose into your blood, which is better for your insulin response.
Aside from these gustatory advantages, fats, along with protein and carbs, provide energy, both at the time the fats are eaten and later when released from storage in your body.
You would miss that cushion!
The fat that is in storage under your skin, keeps you warm and cushions your body from life’s bumps and shocks. Although, many of us would like to lose some of that cushion, we do need some padding to protect our bones.
Fat is important in many body processes.
Fats also form an important part of the structure of cell membranes, facilitate the passage of hormones and certain vitamins in and out of the cells, and are part of the make-up of important compounds in the body such as bile acids and hormones.
What if I don’t get enough fat?
Fat deficiency is not a problem for most people in developed countries, unless they are living in poverty and not getting enough to eat. However, some people put themselves on strict, low fat diets or have eating disorders that cause them to eat too little fat.
MY TWO CENTS
I have an acquaintance that struggled with body image issues. When she was pregnant, she was very concerned about getting "fat" and planned to gain no more than five pounds during her pregnancy. By the time she was 6 months pregnant, she was so uncomfortable, because there was no where for the baby to lay on her skinny frame. If she had allowed herself to gain a bit of "cushion" around her middle, both she and the baby would have been more comfortable. As it was, the baby arrived 6 weeks early (which may have happened anyway) and struggled with pre-maturity for the first year or so.
As hard as we are as a culture on women who are not stylishly slim, pregnancy is a time to put that aside and do what is best for your baby (and for you by extension!) Allow yourself to put on a little cushion--not too much, of course--and from healthy food not junk food, and both you and your baby will benefit!
What about children?
Since kids need the essential fatty acids for proper development as well as the energy supplied by fats, it is not a good idea to put children on a low-fat diet. At the same time, be sure you are providing good quality, nutritious foods, from all the food groups, in an appropriate amount for your child’s age and activity level. Keep in mind that most cases of childhood obesity are a result of too many total calories—often empty calories—and not just too much fat.
Nutrients work together
As with any of the nutrients, if you do not get enough fat, your overall health will be affected. It is important to remember that all of the nutrients – protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fats work together to keep you feeling well.
Eating healthy means choosing a balanced diet that includes all the food groups in appropriate amounts to ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients you need to be healthy.