Good Fats VS. Bad Fats
November 2nd, 2016 by Lauren Tharp
We’ve mentioned in a few of our nutrition posts that not all fats are bad for you. In fact, some fats have great benefits for your health. However, we realized that we’ve never gotten into the specifics over what makes a fat “good” and what classifies a fat as “bad.”
Let’s rectify that now. Get ready to learn all about fats!
Bad fats usually fall into two categories: saturated or trans. These fats can be easily identified because they turn into solids at room temperature.
Foods that include saturated fats, trans fats, or both 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)
- 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)
Trans fats are especially bad for you. According to studies done at Harvard Medical School:
“Eating foods rich in trans fats increases the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and reduces the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol. Trans fats create inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. They contribute to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health and elsewhere indicates that trans fats can harm health in even small amounts: for every 2% of calories from trans fat consumed daily, the risk of heart disease rises by 23%. Trans fats have no known health benefits and that there is no safe level of consumption.”
Saturated fats aren’t quite as sinister, but still cause their fair share of health issues:
“A diet rich in saturated fats can drive up total cholesterol, and tip the balance toward more harmful LDL cholesterol, which prompts blockages to form in arteries in the heart and elsewhere in the body. For that reason, most nutrition experts recommend limiting saturated fat to under 10% of calories a day.”
So limit your consumption of saturated fats and eliminate trans fats from your diet completely. And, of course, indulge in the good fats, which we’ll get into now.
Monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat are considered more “heart-healthy” fats, which you should include in your diet in moderation. Foods that primarily contain these healthier fats tend to be liquid when they’re at room temperature, such as vegetable oil. Some of these foods also contain the mystical and magical omega-3 fatty acids, which are awesome and we’ll explain why further down.
Foods that include “healthy” fats are:
- nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, walnuts)
- vegetable oils (olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil)
- peanut butter and almond butter
- fatty fish (salmon, herring, sardines, trout)
- seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds)
While monounsaturated fats are good for you, it’s recommended to use them with polyunsaturated fats to get the real health benefits. Polyunsaturated fats are classified as essential fats that your body needs in order to work at its optimal levels.
By replacing your bad fats with these essential fats, you can reduce the harmful LDL cholesterol in your system and improve your overall cholesterol profile. It also helps lower your triglycerides.
And, as we said, some of these foods (have we ever mentioned how much we love avocados?), also include omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat. While all types of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good for you, omega-3 fats are proving to be especially beneficial. Research has shown that they can:
- Prevent and reduce symptoms of depression, ADHD, and bipolar disorder
- Protect against memory loss and dementia
- Reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer
- Ease arthritis, joint pain, and inflammatory skin conditions
- Support a healthy pregnancy
- Help you battle fatigue, sharpen your memory, and balance your mood
Pretty cool, huh?
Of course, all fats should be eaten in moderation as they contain a lot of calories which can be stored on your body as body fat if you don’t put those calories to use. However, if you keep up a good exercise routine, you should be able to enjoy your favorite (good) fatty foods with no issues.