A common misconception about fat is that it is inherently bad for you, but just like the body needs sugar and carbohydrates, consuming certain fats can provide a number of health benefits and stabilise one’s metabolism.
Although research surrounding dietary fat is still evolving, it is clear that fat is an essential part of anyone’s diet as they enable vitamins to be dissolved into your bloodstream, provides energy and are essential for the growth of cells and tissues. Consuming fat in moderation plays a vital role in maintaining a balanced diet.
However, not all fat are equal; some are more beneficial to the body than others. Setting the scales straight once and for all, here’s the lowdown on the different kinds of “good” and “bad” fats.
Fat can be found in both animals and plants, and all foods and oils contain a mixture of various fatty acids. As all foods contain some kind of fat, trying to determine whether or not it is “good” or “bad” for you depends on the predominant type of fat within that food.
In determining whether or not fat is “good” or “bad”, what science and dieticians look for is the likelihood of certain fats to increase or decrease cholesterol levels, and whether a certain kind of fat lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Present in many foods and oils, research has consistently shown that consuming foods with monounsaturated fats can improve your overall blood cholesterol level and decrease your risk of heart disease. Lucky for you, the foods that contain monounsaturated fats are normally quite delicious and aren’t difficult to incorporate into your daily diet. They include: nuts (peanuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, etc) and nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter, etc), vegetable oils (olive oil, peanut oil), and avocados.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids are primarily found in plant-based foods and oils, and in fish. Grouped under polyunsaturated fats, consuming this kind of fat can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering or stabilising your blood cholesterol levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be especially beneficial for your heart. Seemingly lowering your risk of coronary artery disease, it is also claimed that Omega-3 fatty acids can aid in decreasing blood pressure. Get your fix of Omega-3s by consuming fatty fishes like salmon, sardines and herring, though you can also find lower levels of Omega-3s in flaxseeds and walnuts.
Omega-6 fatty acids are most commonly found in plant-based foods and oils like tofu, seeds (sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc), vegetable oils (olive oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, etc) and soy. Providing the same benefits as Omega-3s, turn to these kinds of foods if you’re not that big of a fan of fish.
Primarily animal-based, saturated fat is found in high-fat meats (fatty cuts of lamb, beef and pork; dark chicken meat and poultry skin; high-fat dairy foods like butter and ice cream, lard, etc)
Although more recent research has shown that there is no direct correlation between the consumption of saturated fats and negative health effects, there are still decades worth of scientific research that support the theory that saturated fats increase your chances of heart disease. We are grouping it in under “bad” fats because (though some say saturated fat consumption is not always inherently bad) consumption should still be moderated.
This is also because a diet with an excess consumption of food high in saturated fats is normally accompanied by a higher level of consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugar. Eating too much of this kind of food can raise your “bad” cholesterol levels, and can also increase the risk of other diseases like Type 2 Diabetes and obesity.
If there are doubts about the “badness” of saturated fat, there is very little doubt associated with the negative effects of trans fat on one’s health. Appearing in foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (oils that prolong a food’s shelf life), trans fat can not only increase “bad” cholesterol levels, it can also decrease your “good” cholesterol levels.
Unsurprisingly, trans fats are normally found in the foods you probably already consider unhealthy, such as cookies, cakes, pastries, french fries, deep-fried food and microwave meals.
At the end of the day, fat – both good and bad – is present in everyone’s diet. Healthier fats are more important that those that aren’t, but it is still imperative that you moderate your consumption of them if you want to maintain a balanced diet and weight. The key to success is to ensure that you consume all foods in moderation!