Unsaturated Fat: General Info
Unsaturated fat is a form of fat that is liquid at ordinary temperatures. Its counterpart is saturated fat, which retains a more solid form. While fats have a bad reputation among the general public, they are in fact essential to bodily health, providing protection for vulnerable parts of the body, maintaining warmth in the system, disseminating vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K, helping to keep the hair and skin healthy, and acting as storehouses of energy. Fats can also lead to increased levels of cholesterol and heart disease, and possibly cancer and weight gain as well. These dangers tend to be more associated with saturated fats, however, and experts routinely advise that a sensible daily dosage of unsaturated fat can be highly beneficial.
Foods containing unsaturated fats
Common unsaturated fats are derived from oily fish such as herring, tuna, sardines, and salmon; as well as from vegetable oils and nuts. All of these can help to provide certain fatty acids (specifically, omega-3 and omega-6) that the body cannot synthesize on its own. These acids are thought to reduce risk of heart disease and to enhance memory and other mental functions--hence, the popular perception of fish as “brain food." Unsaturated fat can be incorporated into the diet in a variety of ways: by dressing salads with virgin and nut-based oils; by eating less meat and more fish (baked, not roasted or fried); and by swapping ordinary dairy products with those derived from soybeans.
Does saturated fat equal weight gain?
Some consider that any substance labeled "fat" must invariably lead to weight gain. In fact, there is no conclusive proof that high-fat diets yield greater weight gain than diets with a high concentration of protein or carbohydrates. However, all fats are high in calories, and thus should be consumed in moderation. A common figure cited is that 30 percent of caloric intake can safely consist of unsaturated fats. One form of unsaturated fat that should be scrupulously avoided are trans fats. This substance, produced by the hydrogenation of vegetable oils, is commonly found in industrially processed fast foods such as french fries and onion rings. Such trans fats are extremely high in cholesterol.
For more information on "brain food" for children see the following article from TheDietChannel: Brain Food for Kids.
For further information on what fat you should include in a health diet see the following articles from TheDietChannel: Fat Facts:Fat Confusion Cleared Up, Healthy and Fat? 5 High-Fat Foods You Should Not Avoid and A Guide To Healthy Cooking Oils.