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© 2003, The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska on behalf of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension. All rights reserved.


For some people, fat has a negative connotation. However, fat is a necessary nutrient and provides many functions in food products.

Fats are a source of energy for the body and supply essential fatty acids, such as linoleic and linolenic. They are required for maintaining healthy skin and regulating cholesterol production. Fats are used to carry fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and aid in their absorption from the intestine.

Fats play a key role in determining texture, taste and flavor of foods and affect the acceptability of food. They provide the smooth texture of salad dressing, the creamy feel of ice cream and chocolate, the moist, tender texture of cakes, the rich flavor of cheese and the juiciness of meats.

This NebGuide is a primer on the characteristics of various fats and fat substitutes.