Fats tend to get a bad rep in the dieting world. Many high-fat diets, for example, are considered a risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. However, not all fat is created equal and healthy fats are actually essential macronutrients we need to have a balanced diet. Many fats are beneficial to our health.
Generally speaking, the unhealthy fat refers to saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fats are commonly found in animal products like beef, chicken, butter, and cheese. While trans fats can be found in partially hydrogenated oils such as margarine, shortening, and foods made with partially hydrogenated oils–think cookies, crackers and fried fast foods.These types of fat are easy to distinguish because they are solid at room temperature.
Saturated and trans fats are considered unhealthy because they increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes. Eating these fats in excess leads to a rise in LDL (bad cholesterol) and the clogging of arteries. It is recommended to limit saturated fats and to avoid trans fats. One should try to substitute saturated and trans fats with poly- and mono- unsaturated fats, i.e., the healthy fats.
Healthy fats include mono- and poly-unsaturated fats. Mono-unsaturated fats include olive oil, avocado oil (avocados themselves), and sunflower oil. Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and are considered an essential nutrient. These can be found in fatty fish, canola oil, walnuts, and flaxseeds. Mono- and poly-unsaturated fats are also liquid at room temperature.
These fats are considered healthy because they do not contribute to rising LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Polyunsaturated fats are used to build nerves, cell membranes, and help control inflammation throughout the body. Consuming healthy fats actually lowers one’s risk of cardiovascular disease.
Not all fats are unhealthy and some are essential to our health. One should try to limit sources of saturated fat and completely avoid trans fats. Try to stick to mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, as these are essential and offer many healthy benefits. Interested in learning more nutrition? Learn and gain insight about your diet, body and potential with virtual nutritional counseling.