For years, we were told that fat is bad for us, and eating too much fat is what makes people overweight and causes health issues.
This seems to make sense, right?
The more fat you eat, the fatter you get.
But in recent years, this message has become somewhat muddled.
We now know that not all fats are bad.
In fact, some fats are even good for cardiovascular health and can help to lower cholesterol levels.
Let’s take a look at what fat is, what the different types of fat are, and how you can get the right types of fat in your life.
What Is Fat?
Fats are one of the three main macronutrients used by the body, along with carbohydrates and proteins.
They are an important part of the human diet, and serve a number of important functions in the body, including:
- Being used as a source of energy
- Keeping you warm
- Absorbing vitamins from food
- Producing hormones
- Building cells
- Protecting your organs
What Are The Different Types Of Fats?
You’ve likely heard about some of the different types of fats.
Perhaps you’ve seen warnings to avoid foods with trans fats.
Or seen calls to eat more healthy fats.
Not all fats are created equal – so let’s take a closer look at the types of fats, which ones you should be including in your diet, which ones to avoid, and some of the foods they can be found in.
1. Saturated Fats
Saturated fats are one of the types of “bad fats” to be avoided.
Due to their molecular structure, saturated fats are solid when at room temperature – the easiest example to think of is cooled bacon grease.
They increase levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and can cause plaque to build up in the heart and arteries.
An increased level of LDL cholesterol also heightens the risk of heart disease.
A 2017 study in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism, And Cardiovascular Disease found that replacing saturated fats in one’s diet with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats will lower the risk of coronary heart disease.
Foods which contain saturated fats include:
- Coconut oil
- Palm oil
- Whole-milk dairy
- Red meat (pork, beef, lamb)
- Chicken and other poultry with the skin-on
These foods don’t necessarily need to be avoided completely, however, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6% of daily calorie intake be from saturated fats.
2. Polyunsaturated Fats
You might have heard about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
This is an example of polyunsaturated fats.
Omega-3s are important for forming cell membranes and assist with the functions of the lungs, heart, immune system, and endocrine system.
They also assist with brain health, including promoting cognitive development, may reduce anxiety and depression, and may lower the risk of dementia.
Common sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
Side effects of not getting enough omega-3 include dry hair and nails, dry eyes, as well as brain fog, irritability, and reduced quality of sleep.
3. Monounsaturated Fats
Another type of “good fats” are monounsaturated fats.
These can help to improve blood cholesterol levels and help to decrease the risk of heart disease.
A characteristic of these fats is at room temperature they are liquid, however, they solidify when chilled.
Monounsaturated fats can be found in:
- Olive oil
- Peanuts and peanut oil
- Nuts, including almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts
4. Trans Fats
The final type of fat we are going to look at today are trans fats.
You’ve likely heard the warnings to avoid trans fats in your diet – let’s look at why they are considered to be so bad.
A 2007 study in the journal Circulation looked at the link between trans fats and heart health.
This study found higher levels of trans fatty acids in red blood cells were linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
A second study, from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed the presence of trans fats increases LDL [bad] cholesterol without increasing HDL [good] cholesterol.
Trans fats are mostly found in foods which have been highly processed, as they can help food to last longer, and give foods a pleasurable taste and texture.
Some foods which may contain trans fats include:
- Frozen pizza
- Microwave popcorn
- Fried foods
- Baked goods
Book An Appointment At Annex Naturopathic
Confused about nutrition?
Looking to improve your diet, but not sure where to start?
Do you have a health concern, and want to look at ways to address it through proper nutrition?
Annex Naturopathic can help.
Contact us today to set up a consultation with one of our Toronto naturopaths to learn more.