Without fat sugar or salt we could not live. Our body craves these substances because they are necessary to our survival. This craving, unrestrained, is the source of our obesity problem. The body needs fat and sugar as fuel for its many metabolic functions as well as for our physical movement. Salt is needed because it is a critical element in the various chemical reactions that take place in our body.
When we taste these substances in our food, the message we receive from our brain is to eat as much as possible, because they are absolutely necessary for our survival. It is the inadvertent and often automatic over-consumption of these substances that turn them from being beneficial to our bodies to being toxic and threatening to our organism’s well-being.
Why You Need Fats: Good Fats
Not all fats are bad; you just need to know the difference between fats you need, and fats you don’t need. Our bodies need a certain amount of triglycerides, cholesterol and other essential fatty acids, the scientific term for fats the body can’t make on its own.
- Fats provide a source of stored energy: Gram for gram, fats have more than twice as much energy potential (AKA calories) as do protein and carbohydrates (affectionately referred to as carbs). Specifically, fats have nine calories of energy per gram for the body, compared with four calories per gram for both carbohydrates and proteins.
- Fats build healthy cells. Fats are a vital part of the membrane that surrounds each cell of the body. They insulate us and protect our vital organs. Without a healthy cell membrane, the rest of the cell couldn’t function.
- Fats build brains: You need fats because fat provides the structural components not only of cell membranes in the brain, but also of myelin. Myelin is the fatty insulating sheath that surrounds each nerve fiber, enabling it to carry messages faster and helping proteins do their jobs to enable you to think, see, speak, move, and perform the multitude of tasks you and your body do every day.
- Fats help the body use vitamins: Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins, meaning that the fat in foods helps the intestines absorb these vitamins into the body.
- Fats make hormones: Fats are structural components of some of the most important substances in the body, including prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that regulate many of the body’s functions. You need fats because they regulate the production of hormone and other biochemicals, such as vitamin D and bile.
- Fat acts as an insulation blanket that reduces heat loss: In addition to giving skin its rounded appeal, the layer of fat just beneath the skin acts as the body’s own insulation to help regulate body temperature. Lean people tend to be more sensitive to cold; obese people tend to be more sensitive to warm weather.
- Fat forms a protective cushion for your organs: Many of the vital organs, especially the kidneys, heart, and intestines are cushioned by fat that helps protect them from injury and hold them in place. This protective fat is the last to be used up when the body’s energy reserves are being tapped into. For many people this protective fat may be where excess fat is being deposited first. This fat is called visceral fat. The body’s other form of distributing fat leads to accumulating it under the skin and is referred to as subcutaneous fat. Excess visceral fat is much more dangerous since it will lead to inflammation of the affected viscera, (heart, kidneys, pancreas, etc.), due to the body treating it as a foreign substance.
Conversely, subcutaneous fat is distributed in differing patterns that are aesthetically more noticeable but are less dangerous overall (Fat may be stored on the waist first, then thighs, then abdomen, or begin in your back then neck, etc.). Usually losing weight follows this pattern in reverse, losing weight first in the last areas it has accumulated. To see if you accumulate visceral fat, lay down on your back. If the excess fat flattens out over your body it is probably subcutaneous, if your gut area does not flatten and retains a mound-like shape, it is likely to be visceral fat.
Health Benefits of Sugar
Sugar has always been categorized as a villain as far as health is concerned. But, naturally occurring sugars have health benefits also. Most food sources have sugar that can be extracted by our digestive process. Prior to our current formidable array of commercially manufactured sugars, our body had evolved to needing very little sugar from external sources. The highest external contributors to excess sugar in our body are fruits, fruit juices, and milk from mammals. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those found in fruit, and lactose, or milk sugar, come from sources that benefit your diet, and provide much needed carbohydrates.
- Sugar and carbohydrates; the main source of energy for your body: Through the process of digestion, your body breaks down carbohydrates and converts the sugars into glucose which the cells utilize for immediate energy. An illustration of this immediate bump in energy can be readily seen when witnessing a diabetic slipping into a coma who will instantly revive upon eating a single piece of candy.
- Sugar for Your brain: Your brain cannot function without sugar. Do you know why you have blackouts? It is because the sugar supply to your brain is cut off. So the health benefits of sugar include the proper functioning of your brain. However too much sugar has bad effects on your brain so always have it in moderation.
- Sugar cures depression: Sugar is an instant cure for depression. Sugar gives you a ‘high’. That is why they say that chocolate can help you heighten your mood. Sugar makes you feel good about yourself. But mind you, this ‘high’ is always short lived and you end up getting addicted to it. The more you eat, the more you crave, and we know where this leads!
Health Benefits of Sodium (Salt)
Sodium helps muscles and nerves work properly by assisting muscular contraction and transmission of nerve signals. MayoClinic.com reports having the proper amount of sodium in the body maintains an appropriate overall balance of bodily fluids. Sodium also helps sustain a regular blood pH level, an important indicator of health. In addition, supplemental doses of sodium are necessary when you sweat profusely, have sunstroke, or suffer from adrenal insufficiency. Sodium is regularly excreted in the urine, and poses no inherent toxicity or risk.
- Salt and water balance: Sodium is one of the minerals that helps to regulate fluid levels in the human body. Sodium and water balance are closely linked. Sodium gateways and channels are what pump water into the cells and regulate the amount of extracellular fluid in the body.
- Salt and sunstroke: Sodium plays a vital role in preventing sunstroke or heat exhaustion by replacing the loss of essential electrolytes. Besides water, drinking fluids containing salt and sugar is advantage in preventing sunstroke.
- Salt and brain function: The brain is very sensitive to change in sodium levels of the body; deficiency of sodium often manifests as confusion and lethargy. Sodium aids in keeping the mind sharp, and it is an important element for the development of the brain, since sodium works to improve brain function.
- Salt and muscle cramps: Muscle cramps are caused mostly during the hot summer months due to electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. Along with properly hydrating the body, it is also important to supplement one’s body with sodium-rich juices and fluids to restore the amount of electrolytes.
- Salt and anti-aging: Surprise! Sodium is an important hydrating product contained in many anti-aging creams. It defends against the free radicals that accelerate the aging process. Furthermore, it helps to restore youthful and healthy skin.
- Salt eliminates excess carbon dioxide: Sodium plays an important role in the removal of any excess carbon dioxide that has accumulated in the body.
- Salt regulates glucose absorption and fluid levels: Sodium helps to facilitate the absorption of glucose by cells, resulting in the smooth transportation of nutrients in the body’s cell membranes. One of the most notable health benefits of sodium is its ability to balance the osmotic pressure in the human body due to the regulation of fluid in the body’s cells.
So, as you can see, we really do need fat, sugar, and salt in our diets, and as a matter of fact, our bodies will react to be sure we get these nutritional elements, by triggering the eating gene to overconsume these nutrients. So, it is our responsibility to regulate the body’s natural tendency to overindulge, while at the same time realizing that totally eliminating these items from our diets can be bad as well.
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