Fats Are Essential in the Diet

Fats are macronutrients that you need to include in your balanced diet plan. However, you must distinguish between good and bad fats and the portions you should consume.
Fats Are Essential in the Diet

Last update: 15 February, 2020

Are fats essential in the diet? The answer to this very important question is yes, without a doubt. Fats correspond to one of the three groups of macronutrients, along with proteins and carbohydrates.

Therefore, you should include them in proper proportions as part of a balanced, healthy diet. However, there are many doubts about this, especially due to the many myths about this topic that exist out there.

Thus, we decided to delve a little deeper into the importance of fats and be rigorous with this issue. In addition, we’ll explain the types of fats that exist, which are the best, and the portions you should consume. Keep reading to learn more!

The bodily function of fats

Fats, also called lipids, are an important part of the diets of most heterotrophic beings. Lipids are important molecules for many forms of life and have both structural and metabolic functions. Some of these important functions are:

  • Energy, as the metabolization of one gram of fat produces, on average, about nine kilocalories of energy.
  • Structural, as cholesterol is part of cell membranes and is a precursor of steroid hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D.
  • Supporting and protecting organs such as the heart and kidneys.
  • Transporting fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K, and carotenoids).
  • Providing the body with essential fatty acids.
Sources of unsaturated fats.
An adequate intake of dietary fat is critical for health. Although people tend to forget it, fats are involved in important body functions.

What are the different types of fats?

Fats are essential in the diet. Therefore, you must know the different types and how to consume them. Depending on the fatty acids that compose fats and their chemical bonds, we can classify them into:

Saturated fats

They’re solid at room temperature. The vast majority are of animal origin. Nevertheless, you can also find them in vegetable oils such as coconut oil (92%) or palm oil (52%).

Unsaturated fats

They’re liquid at room temperature and consist mostly of oils: olive oil, sunflower oil, or corn oil etc. They’re the most beneficial to the human body due to their effects on plasma lipids. In addition, they contain essential fatty acids that are very important for human consumption because the body doesn’t produce them.

There are different subgroups:

  • Monounsaturated fats. They reduce plasma cholesterol levels associated with LDL lipoproteins (commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol”) and increase HDL lipoprotein levels (known as “good cholesterol”).
  • Polyunsaturated fats. Formed by the series of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega-6 fatty acids reduce LDL and HDL lipoprotein levels. Omega-3 fatty acids have more plasma triglyceride-lowering effects. You can find them mostly in oily fish, oil seeds, and some nuts.

Foods with healthy fats.
Foods such as olive oil, nuts, fish, and seeds contain unsaturated fats that are beneficial to health.

Trans fats

They’re the result of the hydrogenation of vegetable oils. They can increase lipoprotein LDL and triglyceride levels by dangerously lowering HDL lipoprotein levels. You can find them in vegetable shortening or margarine.

Required fat intake

Between 30% and 35% of adults’ daily energy consumption should come from fats. The rest should come from carbohydrates and proteins. Meanwhile, cholesterol intake shouldn’t exceed 300 mg/day.


You shouldn’t cut out fats entirely from your diet, as fats are essential nutrients that your body needs. The key to healthy eating is to differentiate the different types and their effects on the body. Furthermore, you should consume them in suitable portions as a part of a balanced diet.

It might interest you...
The Essential Fats Your Brain Needs
Step To Health
Read it in Step To Health
The Essential Fats Your Brain Needs

Did you know that the brain is made up of a lot of fat? In this article, discover the essential fats your brain needs to function.

  • Liu AG, Ford NA, Hu FB, Zelman KM, Mozaffarian D, Kris-Etherton PM. A healthy approach to dietary fats: understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusion. Nutr J. 2017;16(1):53. Published 2017 Aug 30. doi:10.1186/s12937-017-0271-4
  • Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G. Monounsaturated fatty acids, olive oil and health status: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Lipids Health Dis. 2014;13:154. Published 2014 Oct 1. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-13-154
  • Lawrence GD. Dietary fats and health: dietary recommendations in the context of scientific evidence. Adv Nutr. 2013;4(3):294–302. Published 2013 May 1. doi:10.3945/an.113.003657
  • National Research Council (US) Committee on Diet and Health. Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1989. 7, Fats and Other Lipids. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK218759/