Good Fats VS Bad Fats
Do you think fats are good or bad for you?
Some fats are better for you than others and may even help to promote good health. Knowing the difference can help you determine which fats to consume more and which to avoid.
Dietary fat, also known as fatty acids, can be found in foods from both plants and animals. Certain fats have been linked to negative effects on heart health, but others have been found to offer significant health benefits.
Fat is as essential to your diet as protein and carbohydrates are in fueling your body with energy. Certain bodily functions also rely on the presence of fat. For example, some vitamins require fat in order to dissolve into your bloodstream and provide nutrients.
What are some less healthy fats?
Saturated Fat: Most saturated fats are animal fats. They’re found in high fat meats and dairy products.
Saturated fat sources include:
- fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb
- dark chicken meat and poultry skin
- high fat dairy foods (whole milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, ice cream)
- tropical oils (coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter)
Eating too much saturated fat can increase blood cholesterol levels and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Trans Fat: Short for “trans fatty acids,” trans fat appears in foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. These are the worst fats for you.
You might find trans fat in:
- fried foods (French fries, doughnuts, deep-fried fast foods)
- margarine (stick and tub)
- vegetable shortening
- baked goods (cookies, cakes, pastries)
- processed snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn)
Like saturated fat, trans fat can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol. Trans fat can also suppress HDL (good) cholesterol levels, or “good” cholesterol.
What are healthy fats?
Monounsaturated fat: This type of helpful fat is present in a variety of foods and oils. Eating foods that contain monounsaturated fat can improve your blood cholesterol level and decrease your risk for diseases such as cardiovascular disease. These foods include:
- nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans)
- vegetable oils (olive oil, peanut oil)
- peanut butter and almond butter
Polyunsaturated fat: Polyunsaturated fats are known as “essential fats” because the body cannot make them and needs to get them from foods. Plant-based foods and oils are the primary source of this fat.
A certain type of this fat, called omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to be particularly beneficial for your heart. Omega-3s appear to help lower blood pressure levels and protect against irregular heart rates. The following types of foods contain omega-3 fatty acids:
- chia seeds
- canola oil
In addition to omega-3 fatty acids, you can find polyunsaturated fat in the following foods, which contain omega-6 fatty acids:
- roasted soybeans and soy nut butter
- seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds)
- vegetable oils (corn oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil)
- soft margarine (liquid or tub)
The bottom line
Trans fats and saturated fats are known to be harmful to your health and should be avoidable most of the times. Instead, it’s a good idea to incorporate foods that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.