Good vs Bad: What teens need to know about fats

Good fats and bad fats

A healthy diet is essential for teenagers not only for their heightened nutritional needs, but also because the foods they eat as teenagers can impact their health when they reach adulthood. The nutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fats in food serve as the body’s energy sources. And to make sure teenagers grow into energetic adults, eating healthy is something that should be taught at a young age. Though most of the teenagers today are well aware of what are good and bad carbohydrates, how good is a high or low protein diet, how “counting calories” makes one fat and much more, a lot of them are totally left unaware of what “fats” are and how some can be good or bad causing good or ill effects to health respectively.

What are fats?

Fats are nutrients in food that the body uses to build nerve tissue, brain tissue and hormones. The body also uses fat as fuel. If fats eaten aren’t burned as energy or used as building blocks, they’re stored by the body as fat cells. Besides being a source of fuel, fats also play other roles such as:

  • Help the body absorb some vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble, meaning they can only be absorbed if there’s fat in a person’s diet).
  • Insulate nervous system tissues in the body.
  • Help people feel full, so they’re less likely to overeat.

Types of fats

The good fats — unsaturated fats!

Unsaturated fats are an important part of a healthy diet. These fats help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels when they replace saturated fats in the diet. These “Heart Healthy” fats are of two types:

1. Polyunsaturated fats: Plant-based foods and oils are the primary source of this fat. There are again two types of polyunsaturated fatty acids:

Omega-3 fatty acids: Important for normal metabolism, these are found as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in plant oils, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both commonly found in marine oils.

Omega-6 fatty acids: These essential fatty acids are essential for human health, but are not made by the body. Thus, you have to get them from their various food sources. They help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system.

Polyunsaturated fats: Found in soyabean oil, corn oil and sunflower oil.
 Omega-3 fatty acids Omega-6 fatty acids
 Soyabean Nuts
 Walnuts Cereals such as whole wheat breads
 Seeds — chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds Pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds
 Spinach Durrum wheat
 Brussel sprouts Hemp oil
 Fish — salmon and mackerel Linseed oil

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Dhrishti Bijlani
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Dhrishti Bijlani

Armed with a Master’s in Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics, Dhrishti Bijlani's goal is to make it easier for everyone to eat right and get more habituated to a healthy lifestyle.