Good Fats vs. Bad Fats: What You Need to Know
Fats have a bad reputation. It’s the villain in all of our health woes, from heart disease to weight gain. But like most things in life, the story isn’t black and white, and there’s definitely more than one side to it.
Fat is a rich source of energy, with each gram providing 9 calories (as opposed to carbs and protein which provide 4 calories each). Of course, consuming more energy than our body needs will lead to the leftovers being stored as body fat – but that goes for carbs and protein too. So it’s not necessarily fat that makes us, well, fat, but consuming too much of anything.
Fat is an essential nutrient that plays many positive roles in the health of our body. It coats our lungs so we can breathe, helps transport key vitamins around the body, and makes up 60% of the brain! The crucial thing to understand is that there are different types of fat, each with different chemical compositions, and different effects on our health.
- Saturated Fats – For a long time these were labelled as ‘bad’ fats, but they’re really one of the grey areas we mentioned at the start. There’s a growing amount of evidence that saturated fat can be beneficial to our health (especially in coconut oil), although we still need to limit our intake. Saturated fat is often found in fried foods, fatty meats, and butter.
- Trans Fats – These are the truly evil fats, and are linked to increases in LDL cholesterol which can lead to heart disease. They’re so harmful to our health that there’s been a big push around the world to remove them from foods, but you’ll still come across them in processed foods like cookies and pastries.
- Unsaturated Fats – These are the ‘good’ fats, which help maintain healthy levels of cholesterol. Also referred to as ‘monounsaturated’, ‘polyunsaturated’, and ‘omega 3 fatty acids’, these types of fat are usually found in avocados, oily fish, nuts, seeds, olive and sunflower oil.
So what’s the best way to avoid the ‘bad’ fats and incorporate the ‘good’ ones into our diet? Eating foods found in nature is your best bet for consuming those good fats.
- Oily fish – like salmon, mackerel, sardines, swordfish, and crab
- Nuts – almonds, pecans, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, and hazelnuts (but opt for the unsalted, and unroasted options)
- Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax, and chia seeds
- Avocado – in salads, fresh guacamole, burritos, smoothies, or soups
Watch out for fats that are solid at room temperature, such as butter and meat rind, since they contain more saturated fat which should be limited. And avoid anything that lists ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil’ or ‘shortening’ on the list of ingredients, since they both contain trans fats.
A healthy heart needs a healthy diet. It’s never too late to start adopting healthy habits. It’s nice to know if the changes you’re making are working, and now more than ever, it’s easy to measure your changes Keep track of your progress with a smart heart health tracker like MOCAheart. MOCAheart is a pocket-sized device that gives you a holistic view of your heart health in just 25 seconds. The smartphone app makes it easy to share your progress with your doctor and loved ones, giving them peace of mind. Learn more here>>