Good Fats vs Bad Fats
How do we know what is and isn’t healthy when it comes to fats? How do we compare good fats vs bad fats? What fats are healthy? What fats should I avoid? These are all questions that I’ll answer below to help you understand that not all fats are created equal and that you should be eating fats, even if you’re afraid to do so.
The fad of low fat diets for weight loss has many people afraid of fat in general. Unfortunately, this attitude toward fat has done more harm than good. In fact, there are some forms of fat that are beneficial to consume and can even help you lose weight! The key is to understand what types of fat are good and which ones are bad. The age old battle between good fats vs bad fats is broken down below.
The type of fat people should consume are known as monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat (aka unsaturated fats). These types of fats actually have many health benefits such as protecting your heart and keeping your brain healthy.
MONOUNSATURATED FATS: These can be found in foods such as:
- vegetable based oils
- nuts and seeds
POLYUNSATURATED FATS: Many types of fish contain high concentrations of omega fatty acids, which are very beneficial when it comes to health. They help reduce the risk of heart disease and may help lower high blood pressure with regular consumption. Great for the brain too.
TRANS FATS: The type of fats people should definitely avoid are called trans fats. These are the most harmful type of fat and people should avoid consuming them as much as possible. Trans fats are the type of fat that typically leads to high blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart attacks. Trans fats have zero nutritional value, in fact they actually increase LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and decrease HDL (“Good” cholesterol) in the bloodstream! Which leads to an increase of your risk of heart disease. These are the real bad guys when it comes to bad fats.
Foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils are typically trans fatty foods. Always read labels. Some items listed below may or may not contain trans fats, but most will, so always be aware of what you’re eating. If you see partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients, that is a trans fat! Make it a habit to pay attention to what’s in your food. See below for a handy list of foods to skip or read labels on:
- French fries
- fried chicken fingers
- fried fish
- fried vegetables
- basically anything fried, deep fried or battered
- pie crust or store bought pie
- boxed pancake or waffle mix
- boxed cake mixes and pre-packaged cake frostings
- cookies and cakes
- ice cream
- microwave popcorn
- pre-packaged non-dairy creamers
- biscuits, sweet rolls and danishes
- breakfast sandwiches
- frozen dinners
- meat sticks
- packaged pudding
- Asian crunchy noodles
SATURATED FATS: These are also considered bad fats, although there is some debate about how bad they are depending on the food item. The best attitude toward saturated fat seems to be to use in moderation and not go overboard with them.
See below for examples of where you can find saturated fats:
- high fat dairy like cream or cheeses
- Animal fats from meats
- hydrogenated oils (palm oil)
- processed meats: pepperoni, sausages, bacon, salami, bratwurst, lunch meat and chorizo
- coconut oil or coconut milk (these are debatable by some as being good rather than bad)
Healthy Fat Tips
In order to reduce the consumption of bad fats and increase consumption of good fats, a few simple diet changes should be put in place. Avoid eating prepackaged and processed foods as much as possible. These foods often contain high concentrations of unhealthy fats. Instead, opt for natural forms of fat such as fish, nuts, and vegetable based oils such as olive and coconut oils. Whenever possible try to avoid eating fried food and instead go for lightly sautéed foods or baked foods that have been made with healthy fats in oils like coconut and olive oil. These small changes will have a big impact on your long term health and soon you won’t even miss those unhealthy foods! Hope this helps you understand good fats vs bad fats.