What Are the Functions of Fat in the Diet?

Pupils In Class Using Digital Tablet
Fat helps your brain develop and function. (Image: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images)

Incorporating the right type of fats into your diet is equally as important as the amount of fat you consume. Saturated fats and trans fats, or “bad” fats, increase your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol and other diseases. Consuming “good” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats reduces your risk of the same conditions. Good fats play vital roles in different functions within your body. Nuts, fish and vegetable oils all provide good fats that benefit your health rather than harm it.

Aids in Absorption of Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Cranberry Walnut and Feta Salad
Vitamin K can be found in dark leafy greens. (Image: travellinglight/iStock/Getty Images)

Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin A, D, E and K. The vitamins dissolve in fat, and proper absorption requires the presence of fat. Vitamin A contributes to bone and teeth growth, cell division, and helps moisturize your skin, eyes and mucous membranes. Vitamin D helps your body absorb and utilize calcium and maintain your bones' integrity. Vitamin E's antioxidant qualities protect your vitamin A and C stores and your red blood cells. Vitamin K helps maintain your bone health and helps blood clotting throughout your body.

Promotes Brain Functioning

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Fat accounts for 60% of your brain. (Image: Cristian Gabriel Kerekes/iStock/Getty Images)

Fat plays a key role in your brain development and health. Helpguide, an online mental health resource, reports that fat accounts for about 60 percent of your brain and affects your learning capabilities, hormones, moods and memory retention. During pregnancy, women require more fatty acids or omega-3 fats, a form of polyunsaturated fat, to promote the baby's brain and eye development. Foods high in omega-3 fats include fish, eggs, seeds and nuts.

Supports Good Health

Nutritional supplements in capsules
Omega-3 fats can help prevent stroke and heart disease. (Image: SweetCrisis/iStock/Getty Images)

The omega-3 fats help protect your body in a variety of ways. Omega-3 fats lower inflammation and may reduce pain accompanying it. Regular intake of omega-3 fats promotes healthy functioning of your metabolic and immune system. Omega-3 fats help prevent stroke and heart disease, aid in contracting and relaxing your artery walls and play a key role in the development of hormones that regulate blood clotting within your body. There is no recommended intake for omega-3 fats, but good food sources are flaxseed, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, walnuts and olive oil.

Protects Your Body

Avocado
Fat helps insulate and protect your nerves. (Image: NadiaCruzova/iStock/Getty Images)

Consuming a healthy amount of fat ensures that your body has appropriate stores of it. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that 20 to 35 percent of your daily caloric consumption comes from polyunsaturated fast and monounsaturated fats. The USDA recommends limiting your intake of saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your daily calories and eliminating trans fats all together.

Fat cushions the organs in your body and helps protect them against injury or trauma. Additionally, fat helps maintain your body temperature and insulates and protects your nerves, allowing them to engage in impulse transmission and reception.

Gives You Energy

Healthy woman running on the beach
Fat is also able to supply energy. (Image: Anna Omelchenko/iStock/Getty Images)

A major benefit of fat in the diet is its ability to supply energy. Though you may think carbohydrates are the body's primary source of fuel, the fact is that fat -- specifically triglycerides -- provide twice as much energy as carbohydrates or proteins, according to the National Institutes of Health. When you eat fat, what doesn't get used as energy right away gets stored inside cells. When you need extra energy, fat storage is broken down.

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