An Introduction to Good and Bad Fats

An Introduction to Good and Bad Fats

The good

Unsaturated fats

Generally considered to be the healthiest kind of fat, they help lower the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, which in turn reduces the risk of heart disease and other conditions like stroke. As oils, they are liquid at room temperature but are also found in solid foods. Unsaturated fats are further classified as:

  • Monounsaturated fats:
      In addition to taking care of cholesterol levels, monounsaturated fats help develop and maintain the cells. Foods high in monounsaturated fats include avocado, nuts, olive oil and many vegetable oils.
  • Polyunsaturated fats:
    These fats contain omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which the body requires and can only derive from food sources. While both these fatty acids are essential, some experts note that higher amounts of omega 6 may cause low-grade inflammation, so it is preferable to consume a higher ratio of omega-3-rich foods to the alternative. Found in both plant and animal sources, foods high in polyunsaturated fats include flaxseeds, sunflower seeds and fish such as salmon, albacore tuna and mackerel.

The bad

Saturated fats: Although they get more of a bad rap than necessary, saturated fats do raise LDL cholesterol, which can be a contributing factor in cardiovascular diseases. It is recommended to limit the intake of these fats – no more than 6% of the daily calories. They tend to be solid at room temperature and are usually found in animal sources. Foods high in saturated fats include whole milk, butter, cheese, ice cream, fatty meat portions of beef and lamb and many palm oils.

Trans fats: Also known as hydrogenated fats, they are mostly made from vegetable oils through an industrial process called hydrogenation (though some trans fats form naturally) and are usually solid at room temperature. Trans fats are beneficial to the food industry because they help edible items stay fresh for longer, and so are used in many restaurants and in packaged foods. However, they are quite bad for health because they raise LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels while decreasing the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. In recent years, there’s been a big push to reduce, replace or eliminate the use of trans fats due to the harm they can cause. You can avoid trans fats by reading labels on food products to know the kind of fats used in them. Foods high in trans fats include baked goods like cakes and pies, fried foods, frozen pizza and refrigerated dough, microwave popcorn and stick margarine.

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