What are lipids, oils and fats?

  • Lipids include fats (solid at room temperature) and oils (liquid at room temperature).

  • Lipids are an important part of a healthy diet. The body uses lipids as an energy store, as insulation and to make cell membranes.

Discover how lipids, oils and fats are used in making ice cream

What are lipids, oils and fats?

Lipids are formed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. There are two types of lipids:

  • Fats - These are solid at room temperature. Butter and cheese are high in fat.

  • Oils - These are liquid at room temperature. Examples include oils from nuts, seeds and fish.

How does the body use lipids?

Every cell in your body has a cell membrane which is made of lipids. Some hormones, including sex hormones, are made from a lipid called cholesterol.

Fat is also an important energy store for the body. The layer of fat under your skin provides insulation and thin layers of fat protect vital organs.

How much do you need?

Lipids are an essential component of a balanced diet. In the body, lipid molecules can be broken down to make smaller molecules of fatty acids and glycerol.

Some fatty acids, called essential fatty acids, are vital for health. They can be found in foods such as nuts, seeds or fish.

However, it is important not to each too much fatty or oily food. This is because small amounts of lipid-rich foods can store large amounts of energy. Eating too much fatty or oily food, whilst not getting enough exercise, may cause obesity.

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Where next?

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