Why Do We Need Fats & Sugars?

By Jan Annigan

Macronutrients, or the nutrients your body needs in large quantities, include proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Fats and carbohydrates, both complex carbs such as starches and simple carbs such as sugars, are popular targets for elimination of weight-loss plans. However, as fats and sugars are essential to good health, include sufficient quantities of each to ensure your continued health and well-being.

Fat Functions

Fat is an integral component of your cell membranes, important for growth and development of your tissues and organs. Fat serves as a highly concentrated form of energy, and is the primary way your body stores energy for the long term. Fat tissue also cushions your internal organs. In addition to allowing your body to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, fat improves the flavor and consistency of many foods, says the University of Illinois McKinley Health Center.

Fat Sources

Saturated fats are associated with poor cardiovascular health and commonly arise from animal sources, including red meat, skin-on poultry and dairy products. Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, offer health benefits including decreased inflammation and improved blood cholesterol profiles, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Include olive oil, peanut oil, flaxseed, avocados, nuts and seeds, all rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, in your diet to take advantage of these heart-healthy fats.

Sugar Functions

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate that provides quick energy to your body. Glucose, a type of sugar, is the primary energy source for your brain and may fuel all the other cells and tissues in your body as well. Dietary sugars in excess of what you need for immediate fuel convert to a long-chain molecule called glycogen, which your body stores in your liver and muscles as a short-term reserve energy source.

Sugar Sources

Complex carbohydrates comprise starches and fiber, while simple carbohydrates are sugars. Natural sources of sugars include raw fruits, vegetables and dairy products, and these foods also provide added health benefits such as vitamins, minerals and fiber. Processed foods may include added sugars but these sugars often lack additional nutrients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends avoiding added sugars in processed foods and beverages and consuming natural sources of sugars instead.

Amounts Needed

Fats and carbohydrates should provide the bulk of your diet, calorie-wise, states the University of Illinois McKinley Health Center. Fats should account for at least 20 percent of your daily calories, but no more than 35 percent. Aim for the majority of your fat calories to come from plant sources, and avoid trans fats found in processed baked goods and fried foods. Of the 45 to 65 percent of calories that should come from carbohydrates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages you to eat half from whole grains and to consume simple sugars through natural, whole-food sources.

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