Understanding the Difference Between Good and Bad Fats

In the past, health experts warned us to stay away from fat. They told us it was responsible for the increase in obesity, heart disease, stroke, and overall poor health.

Unfortunately, the reduced consumption of fat did not yield the results everyone had hoped for. Instead, the opposite happened. Obesity rates increased, and so did stroke and heart disease cases. This was later attributed to the excess sugar we ate.

With time, we learned that fat was not the demon we thought it was. In fact, it's impossible to be healthy with a diet devoid of it. And this agrees with what nutritionists have known for a long time – fat is an essential nutrient.

It prevents blood clots and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. Also, it builds cell membranes. In addition to that, it controls insulin and blood sugar levels. And some vitamins and minerals are fat soluble meaning fat is essential to absorb them.


TYPES OF FATS

Confusion about fats begins with the good Vs the bad. As you might have guessed, you must include the good fats in your diet while cutting the bad ones out.

Monounsaturated fats

These are the healthy fats. They should never be absent in your diet, but quantity should be controlled. Unfortunately, research isn't clear on how much you should eat daily. These fats lower the risk of cancers, heart disease, and stroke. Also, they reduce cholesterol levels, promote weight loss, and help with rheumatoid arthritis. Good sources include:

  • Avocados
  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Nuts (almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts)
  • Nut butters (Peanut butter, almond butter etc.)
  • Red Meats
  • Milk products (whole milk is best)

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Polyunsaturated fats

Use some of these healthy fats when cooking. Polyunsaturated fats are divided into two groups: Omega 3 fats and omega 6 fats. Just as with their monounsaturated counterparts, these also lower cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke. Additionally, they promote the growth of healthy cells. Sources include:

  • Walnuts
  • Oils (sunflower, corn. soybean)
  • Sesame
  • Seeds (pumpkin, flax)
  • Oily fish (salmon, sardines)

Trans fats

These are to blame for the negative publicity that fats have suffered from. Even when eaten in small amounts, they are dangerous to your health. Having just 2% of trans fats in your diet increases the possibility of heart disease by 23%. Trans fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol. They cause inflammation which is linked to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

These fats are a product of a process called hydrogenation. This makes them have a longer shelf life. But, unfortunately they become dangerous to your health. When looking at food labels they are sometimes listed as “partially hydrogenated oils.”

Trans fats are found in:

  • Cakes
  • Muffins
  • Pizza dough
  • Packaged snacks
  • Margarine
  • Fried foods
  • And much more

Saturated fats

Currently, these fats have no place to call home. Some nutritionists classify them as bad fats while others consider them as healthy. In the past, a number of studies convinced us that saturated fat is bad.

But recently, things have taken a different turn. Other studies say there isn't enough evidence to conclude that saturated fat is dangerous. However, it is agreed that substituting saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Most health experts claim there is no need to eliminate saturated fat in your diet. You just need to limit it to 10% of your daily calorie intake. Some foods with saturated fat are:

  • Red Meats
  • Dairy and dairy products

 

Author: Tyson Wilcox
Author Bio: Tyson’s fitness journey began along with the birth of CrossFit. After his initial class he was immediately hooked and decided that understanding all he could about fitness and CrossFit was his path. After many years as an enthusiast, Tyson is now a fully certified CrossFit coach who spends his days eating, sleeping, competing in and teaching CrossFit.