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We might hate it, but fat is essential to our bodies by Sarah Crooks

We need fat. As much as we may hate to admit it, this substance -- made of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen -- is necessary for our bodies' basic operation.

"Our body cells have to use fat for some of the body processes," said Sandy Couvillon, clinical nutrition manger at Rapides Regional Medical Center.

Cell membranes are made using essential fatty acids.

"It's also an insulator (against heat loss), so we need it for that reason, too," Couvillon said. "It also helps cushion our organs."

Fat is also an energy source. A pound of fat can produce approximately 4,000 calories - that's more than twice the amount of energy stored in a pound of proteins or carbohydrates.

In fact, our bodies convert extra carbohydrates and proteins into fat for stored fuel.

Our bodies' make most of the fat we need, but there are some fats the body can't manufacture. These - linoleic, linolenic and arachidonic -- are called essential fatty acids.

Arachidonic acids are found in meat and animal products.

Linoleic acids are the omega 6 fatty acids that come from vegetable oils -- such as pumpkin, sesame, safflower, olive, almond, sunflower and soybean.

These fatty acids can be found in fast foods, processed foods - "anything fried," Couvillon said.

Linolenic acids the omega-3 fatty acids - come from fish, fish oil and flax seed.

"These are the ones most people don't get enough of," Couvillon said. "Americans may be getting 20 times more omega 6 fatty acids than omega 3.

Our American diet is out of proportion when it comes to those fatty acids."

-The Town Talk