Fat is a word that strikes fear in the hearts of health-minded adults, because it is associated with obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems. But not all fats are bad; our body needs certain fats to function properly.
Our early ancestors relied on hunting, fishing and gathering to survive. Such a diet is low in total fat and saturated fat, but includes a balanced supply of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids. In contrast, the modern diet is filled with cereals, processed foods, vegetable oils and spreads, with a decrease in consumption of fish and grass-fed meat.
There are three main types of dietary fats. Saturated fats are "hard" fats found in butter, lard, and meat fats; these are the fats that cause things like hardening of the arteries. Monounsaturated fats include olive oil and other liquids. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in vegetable oils such as sunflower and fish oils. They also include the omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids. The body can't make them, so we must include these in our diet. And they must be consumed in the proper balance: nutritionists believe we need about 1-2 times more omega-6 than omega-3.
Omega-6 fatty acids lower blood cholesterol and support the skin, while the omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory benefits and help prevent heart disease. If a diet is deficient in either category, the result could be long-term degenerative illness, like heart disease or cancer. Both types of essential fatty acids help keep cells dividing at the right rate, help maintain proper kidney function, regulate blood circulation, help prevent blood clots, and keep saturated fats moving through the bloodstream to prevent arteries from hardening.