Is there such thing as good and bad fats?

Even though we call them good and bad, we still need both in our diet. Unsaturated fats have been named good fats, while saturated fats are deemed bad for us. But the human body needs BOTH and we shouldn’t cut anything out of our diet completely.

The Good

Unsaturated fats: where fatty acids are chained by one or more double bonds. It has been known that unsaturated fats are good for you when eaten among a balanced diet, and actually help to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol... and yes, there’s ‘good’ and ‘bad’ here too!) and promote HDL (good) cholesterol. They’re high in antioxidants, and are usually in liquid form at room temperature.

There are two types of unsaturated fats, being Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats, where omega 3s and 6s are present in the latter.

Monounsaturated fats are in foods like: Olive oil, avocado, some meat fat, oatmeal, nut and plant based oils.

Polyunsaturated fats are in foods like: flax and hemp seed oil, oily fish like salmon sardines and mackerel, eggs, beans (all high in omega 3s), and nuts, whole grains, vegetable oils, cereal, durum wheat, poultry (all high in omega 6s).

The Bad

Saturated fats: where the fatty acid chains are connected by a single bond. Saturated fats are known to be unhealthy as they have been linked to higher bad cholesterol (LDL) possibly causing cardiovascular disease or other health issues. These fats are usually processed and have a long shelf life, and in a solid state at room temperature.

Saturated fats are in foods like: animal fats including butter, full-fat milk, cheese, meat fat, coconut oil, peanuts.

The Ugly

Trans fats! Rarely do these fats appear in natural foods. They are in a category of their own as trans fats are made by modifying unsaturated fat, commonly vegetable oil, being hydrogenated to extend the foods shelf life, and solidify any naturally liquid fats. Trans fats fast became obviously more unhealthy than saturated fats, as they clog arteries and promote disease and health problems. Luckily, trans fats have been slowly banned from being used at all, but these days are usually replaced by saturated fats like palm oil.

The Truth?

While bad fats have been considered to be linked to heart disease, there is very little evidence to back this up. As more study and research is being done on this matter, there is a focus on possible connections between saturated fats and cancers, but more research is needed.

In the end, we should be paying attention to the type of foods we are eating, and focusing on getting our nutrients from a variety of food groups, including fat! Fat should never be excluded from your diet. Just aim for more mono and poly unsaturated fats, and a smaller amount of saturated fats. Stick to including fresh foods like fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, avocados, beans, and adding small amounts of coconut oil, olive oil, butter, and dairy. Truth is? If you’re eating a balanced diet rich in healthy and fresh produce, and you restrict your calorie intake to your recommended amount, you will live a good healthy and fit lifestyle, and help your body to fight disease.

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