Obesity, heart attack, stroke, diabetes…there is one word that links back to all these scary terms, and that is the word FAT.
But what if there is a way to break free from the scarcity around fats? What if you realized that fats can actually work for you, and not against you. To understand this better, we have to dive deep into the differences between good fats vs bad fats.
Here, we will finally clear the air by helping you understand why good fats are essential, and why you should consider adding them to your diet.
Our goal in this article is to help you understand the truth around diatery fats and help bring any false around them, to light.
Dietary Fats 101
Fats are essential macronutrients which provide energy for your body. There are three forms of macronutrients; proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
First, your body stores fats from food and use calories from carbohydrates as a source of energy. When you are more active, your body will stop using calories from carbohydrates and switch to using fats as its primary source of fuel. This is why exercise or any kind of workout that requires more energy helps you burn any excess or unwanted fat.
Fats also help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin D, A, E, and K and help keep your organs, skin, and hair looking healthy. In addition, healthy fats help to insulate your body, help to control inflammation, and contribute to healthier brain development.
How The Word 'Fat' Became A Nasty Word
So if there are good and bad fats, why is it that the word ‘fat’ in general gets frowned upon so often?
If we go back in time, people and scientists understood that consuming fats were the most efficient way of obtaining natural energy.
As time went on, researchers started to test different sources of fat on animals. Through this research, they found that too much cholesterol caused plaque buildup in the artery walls, which increased the risk of stroke and heart attack in humans.
Since the start of the 1940s, heart disease began to increase exponentially. Scientists within an organization called The 7 Countries Study found that high-blood cholesterol, smoking, weight gain, and high blood pressure, all contributed to heart disease in both men and women.
Although the researchers within the 7 Countries Study organization revealed these findings, the director of these studies named Ancel Keys also understood that not all fat was harmful.
Despite his understanding, his research, as well as many others, was misunderstood and over exaggerated by nutritionists, marketers, and journalists. This lead to extreme conclusions about how eating all fat is dangerous, leaving out both sides of the equation.
Although the facts about good fats are becoming more known to the public, the idea of consuming a high-fat diet is still something many people are running from.
What About Dietary Cholesterol?
Our liver makes an average of 80% of the cholesterol in your body, whereas the other 20% comes from foods that you eat every day.
What makes HDL cholesterol good, is its ability to remove other forms of harmful cholesterol in your blood, which helps prevent heart disease. As for LDL cholesterol, the opposite is true. Too much bad cholesterol can cause the build-up of plaque in your arteries, which can put you at future risk of a heart attack or stroke.
The big question is whether or not dietary cholesterol is bad for you. The answer is simple. You can better control blood cholesterol by avoiding foods that contain saturated and trans fat. In other words, stick to clean and healthy fats only.
Studies have shown that populations of people who have no history of high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes, have no long term risk of heart problems.
Good Fats Vs Bad Fats
The Good Fats
What Are Good Fats?
Good fats contain many nutritional benefits that help your body function properly. Unlike saturated fats, they can stay in liquid form when at room temperature. This allows them to pass through the arteries much easier, therefore preventing the risk of cardiovascular disease caused by excess plaque buildup along the artery walls.
Good fats are primarily found in clean and unprocessed foods. They can not only help you prevent the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease but can help improve mood, fight fatigue, and help promote weight-management.
Types Of Good Fats
Healthy fats can be split up into two categories, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
These types of fats have a single carbon-to-carbon double bond, which allows them to stay in its liquid form at room temperatures. Why is this important? Because liquid molecules pass through arteries much easier than solid fats.
In return, this helps prevent plaque from building up along the artery walls, therefore helping improve blood cholesterol while decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
These are essential fats that are primarily made up of omega-3’s and omega-6 fatty acids.
Polyunsaturated fats are responsible for taking care of everyday body functions, including muscle movement, inflammation, and building cell membranes. They also act as a protective shield for your nerves.
Eating enough polyunsaturated fats also reduces LDL Cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in your blood, therefore reducing the potential risk of a stroke and/or heart attack.
Benefits Of Good Fats
Consuming both Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats provide many health benefits that are commonly overlooked.
These benefits include:
- Lowers the risk of heart disease, including stroke.
- Lowers LDL Cholesterol, or the “bad cholesterol” in your blood.
- Lowers high blood pressure
- Helps fight inflammation
- Protects your nerves and outer artery walls
- Help regulate insulin levels, preventing type 2 diabetes
- Prevents hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
- Promotes weight-loss
- Promotes proper brain and bodily function
- Source of natural energy
Where Can I Find Good Fats?
So, where do you find the best sources of healthy fats?
Surprisingly, they are everywhere, and you are most likely eating them already.
To help you with your next grocery list, we underlined the best sources for both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats:
The best sources of monounsaturated fats can be found in foods such as:
- canola oil
- olive oil
- sunflower oil
- most nuts
- sesame oil
- safflower oil
Reliable sources of polyunsaturated fats can be found in foods such as :
- fish, such as salmon, mackerel, trout, herring and albacore tuna
- fish oils
- canola oil
- sunflower seeds
- soybean oil
The Bad Fats
What Are Bad Fats?
Unhealthy fats are composed of trans fats. These types of fats are considered to be the most dangerous.
Bad fats can lower HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), and raise LDL cholesterol, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attack. Trans fats can also contribute to insulin resistance, which can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Types Of Bad Fats
There are two types of fat that are harmful to your health. Trans fats, and saturated fats.
1. Trans fats
This is the worst type of fat for you and should be avoided. Most trans fats that you find are made artificially by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oil, making them more solid. This allows foods to have a much longer shelf life, allowing them to appear and stay fresher for longer.
Unfortunately, foods containing trans fats have shown to increase levels of bad cholesterol while lowering good cholesterol in your blood. Avoiding foods that are high in trans fat will reduce inflammation, and help prevent the clogging of the arteries, therefore reducing the future risk of a heart attack or stroke.
2. Saturated fats
Unlike monounsaturated fats, saturated fats stay solid when in room temperature. This can increase the build-up of plaque along the artery walls, increasing the chances of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, a high saturated fat diet has also shown to increase the amount of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in your blood, which is also linked to heart disease.
Although some researchers at Harvard University now believe that saturated fat isn’t as bad as we once thought, it still isn’t the best choice and should be avoided when possible.
You may find some saturated fats in plant-based foods such as palm oil, or coconut oil, and it is important to consume these in moderation. It is the animal-based products or any fast processed foods that should be avoided.
What Are The Risks Of Bad Fats?
There are many risks that can come with consistently consuming bad fats in your diet.
- Risk of heart disease
- Increases risk of type 2 diabetes
- Increases LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and lowers HDL
- Cholesterol (good cholesterol)
- Negatively impacts mood
- May increase inflammation in your body
What To Avoid
Now that we understand the two types of unhealthy fats, let’s look at some foods that you should avoid when looking at trans fats, and saturated fats.
High trans fat foods to avoid:
- Fried foods
- Baked goods (cookies, pastries, cakes…etc.)
- Processed snack foods
You will find that on some labels, companies will claim that their product has zero trans fat, even though hydrogenated oil is on the ingredients list. This in mind, be sure to avoid the front of the label and always refer to the back where the ingredients are. Hydrogenated oil is simply another word for trans fats.
High saturated fat foods. Use in moderation
- Fatty cuts of meat such as pork, beef, and lamb
- Dark chicken
- High-fat dairy food
- Tropical Oils such as Coconut oil and Cocoa butter
- Cocoa butter
Why Healthy Fats Won't Make You Fat
First, it is important to address that combining healthy fats with other poor diatery choices will most definitely not help you lose or manage weight. Combining healthy fats with wholesome lifestyle routines is the key here, and there are many benefits of healthy fats which can help you lose weight rather than gain it.
Avoiding fats altogether will condition your body not to burn fats, but carbs instead. Since carbs are used primarily as a source of energy, you will not experience weight-loss as you would when consuming healthy fats. So the key tip here is to avoid carbs but rather go for healthy fats instead.
To better understand why healthy fats won’t make you gain weight, let’s look at three benefits of good fats, and how they contribute to weight-loss:
1. Eating fats will enhance your ability to lose fat
There are three nutrients that your body requires for energy; carbs, fats, and protein. Because fat has more than double the energy than carbs and proteins put together, it can supply your body with the fuel needed to burn body fat.
Increasing your metabolism is one of the best ways to increase weight-loss effects. Good fats can increase your bodies metabolic rate, therefore increasing the speed at which your body burns calories throughout the day.
2. Eating fats will help you stay fuller for longer
Foods that contain high amounts of fat help you stay full longer and can help you control your appetite. This can help you prevent snacking throughout the day and help you avoid overindulging when you don’t have to.
Again, it is important to eat smart by lowering your carb intake and stick to healthy foods such as avocado’s, fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetables for your source of healthy fats.
3. Good fats help you absorb vitamins
Healthy fats will help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin D, A, K, and E. These nutrients are absorbed by the fat molecules, and then released over a long period of time.
Having your body release vitamins slowly rather than quickly, will help supply your body with the nutrition needed to help convert fat to energy, help boost your metabolism.
Our 6 Favourite Fatty Foods
Unlike fruits which contain carbs, avocados are loaded with healthy fats. They are primarily made up of monounsaturated fats called oleic acid, which contains health benefits such as reducing inflammation. Studies have also shown that oleic acid can even help stop the formation of cancer cells. women.
Taking sufficient amounts of fish oil is essential due to its high omega-3 contents. Salmon is an excellent source of healthy fat and is rich in nutrients, including vitamin-B, potassium, and protein.
Studies conducted on men revealed that eating salmon reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and common heart complications. If salmon isn’t your thing, you can substitute fish with good quality omega-3 supplements as a substitute.
Eating nuts can be one of the healthiest alternatives when it comes to fats. They are high in magnesium which most people are deficient in. Nuts are also loaded with fiber which helps you stay fuller longer, and can be a valuable source of protein.
4. Chia Seeds
Although chia seeds are not considered as a high-fat food, it still contains 9 grams of fat per every ounce. The lipids are primarily composed of omega-3 fatty acids, and the seeds are packed with minerals including fiber.
5. Coconuts And Coconut Oil
Coconuts contain many health benefits. Although they are made up of 90% saturated fat, large populations of people who consume them do not experience any signs of cardiovascular disease.
Unlike other high saturated foods, coconuts are composed of mostly medium-chain fatty acids which go directly to your liver where they are converted into ketone bodies. These types of fatty acids help suppress appetite while significantly helping to boost your metabolism.
6. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
One of the most popular and highly known healthy fats is in olive oil. It contains sufficient amounts of vitamin K and E, and is packed with powerful antioxidants which help fight inflammation, and helps to protect LDL particles in your blood from oxidization.
Olive oil can also help lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol, therefore preventing the risk of heart disease.
So are fats as bad as everybody makes them out to be? We hope that this article provided the necessary tools for your tool belt to make healthier choices around the types of fats you consume every day.
Eating healthy fats will not only help you manage weight, but can help prevent life-threatening risks such as cardiovascular disease, chronic disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Avoid foods that contain high amounts of trans, as they are the most dangerous. Although saturated fats aren’t as harmful, you should still avoid them when possible.
Daniel has a dedicated history and passion for health and wellness. His journey began when he served in the Canadian Forces while pursuing bodybuilding for a hobby. Through several years he learned about what it takes to achieve a healthy lifestyle holistically and now desires to help others get on track.