The Different Types of Fat & Which Fats You Should Eat
Oh Fat, Fatty McFat Fat, Why doth thou plague me so?
Sorry, got a little Shakespearean there for a minute, but only to pay tribute to fat and its love-hate relationship we’ve had with it for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
Combine our fight to understand fat and make healthy decisions with the transition to processed and packaged foods in the last 30-40 years and are we really sure what we are putting in our body and what effect they have? Convenient food especially has become a staple rather than truly vetted to determine if its value is worth what we pay for it.
No –not in dollars, silly—in health risks.
But, the good news is, there are good fats and bad fats. So we can make better choices with a little info.
Whoa—so fat is good? Yes…but not the kind from your double order of smothered bacon and cheese French fries. Au contraire, mon frère. Read on…
The Good The Bad and the Oh So Ugly Fats
It likely sounds weird to say ‘good fat’, probably as weird as it was for Dorothy to say “good witch”— but good fats are real. Good fats are necessary for energy, growth, absorption of nutrients, production of hormones and protection organs. But other fats aren’t as kind to our body. We need to stop being such good friends with these foes. Let’s call em all out.
There are four major dietary fats in the foods we eat:
– Monounsaturated fats
– Polyunsaturated fats
– Saturated fats
– Trans fats
You can figure out which ones are the depraved, debauched devil fats if they are solid at room temperature. Yeah, that big ol’ stick of butter? Kind of illustrates how it will sit in your body. It also affects your cholesterol levels. Bad fats like saturated and trans fats raise LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in your blood.
Good fats melt at room temperature like veggie oils and the like, and they lower HDL. Thanks, good fats!
The Good Fats: Unsaturated
Unsaturated fats, are your friends. They can improve cholesterol, stabilize heart rhythms and provide good energy.
The difference between mono and poly unsaturated is simply that “Poly”, if you recall geometry, means “many” which equates to many unsaturated chemical bonds to form the fat molecule. Mono means—you guessed it, “one” unsaturated chemical bond to form the molecule.
Monounsaturated fats are found in:
- Olive, peanut, safflower, sesame and canola oils
- Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans
- Seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds
Polyunsaturated fats are found in:
- Sunflower, corn, canola, soybean, and flaxseed oils
- Flax seeds
- Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout.
Now recall how fat from fish can benefit you in our fish oil blog. Recap:
Bonus: Fish Oil Lowers Fatty Acids
Often associated with improving heart health, healthy cholesterol levels and vascular health, supplementing with fish oil, or Omega-3, can also support improving fat loss. Fish oil possesses the ability to lower fatty acids in the blood your doctor calls triglycerides. It also reduces fat storage. Read more here.
Higher blood omega-3 fats are associated with lower risk of premature death. Go Fish!
Now, onto the not so good fats… *cue the boooos *
The bad fats are all the foods you likely love to eat. While all foods that have fat contain a combo of different types, the ones you love to cheat on your diet with have the most.
Saturated fats are mostly in animal foods such as beef, cheese and even the dairy in that double dip cone.
The recommended daily guidelines is less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat.
So, the foods you should limit to 10 percent or fewer calories are:
This really hurts to type….
- PIZZA 🙁
- Beef (Hamburgers)
- Dairy Desserts
- Mexican Food
Wow, that was a list of the ideal first date. *tears up*
If you thought that was bad—there’s a “badder” guy out there: trans fat.
Like most of the ‘worst things’ out there—it’s because of what humans do to things to make them more convenient or ‘tastier.’ While trans fats are naturally present in beef and dairy in small amounts, the type we should all be concerned about are the ones we make. Trans fats are the byproduct of heating up liquid veggie oils through hydrogenation. It converts oils into a solid, called partially hydrogenated oil, so it can be used in baking, to fry fast foods, and are highly prevalent in, you guessed it, fast food restaurants, and the food industry in all corners. Even snack foods can have it.
Trans fat helps preserve foods and give them desirable textures, too. So you may be surprised to learn what common foods contain them….
Examples of foods with trans fat include:
- Cakes & pies
- Fried fast foods
- Frozen pizza
- Breakfast sandwiches
- Microwave popcorn
- Cream-filled candies
What they trans fats do:
- These nasty fats raise bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower good HDL.
- They create inflammation which is tied to heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
- Contribute to insulin resistance.
- Are harmful in SMALL amounts: for each additional 2 percent of calories from trans fat eaten daily, your risk for heart disease increases by 23 percent. Sheesh.
Totes went dark on you again, but we believe education can improve health and even save lives.
Now that we’re through that….
Should I Start Starving Myself Now?
You don’t have to deprive yourself completely of the foods you love. But eat them in moderation and with KNOWLEDGE. Now that you know the difference, check your food packaging panels. You’ll see total fat in grams, and beneath that it will break down the types of fat. Knowing is MORE than half the battle–it is the very catalyst to being able to make healthier choices. It doesn’t mean you can’t have your pizza or breakfast sandwiches, but have them in major moderation.
Shoot for mono and poly unsaturated fats first, incorporate fruits, whole grains and veggies. If you do this consistently, and have a cheat meal here and there, you’ll lessen the damage done to your body so you can live a longer, healthier life. Hey, we’d really like you to stick around as long as you can, friend.
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