Good Fats vs. Bad Fats
Dietary fats are an essential nutrient to the human diet...
However, not all fats are equally beneficial for our bodies
What is fat?
Fat is a macronutrient, meaning it is a major source of energy for the human body however, there is a lot of misinformation regarding the consumption of fats around today. So, let’s set things straight. Your body NEEDS fat. It is classified as an essential nutrient, meaning it is required in our bodies, but our bodies cannot make it - therefore we need to consume it. A common misconception around this macronutrient is that consuming fat will equate to weight gain, when in fact this is the opposite. The World Health Organisation recommends 30% of daily intake of food should come from fats. Not all fats are advantageous for our health though, read on to distinguish the difference between fat types and what sources are best.
“The good guys”
Good fats are known as unsaturated fats, which include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. When eaten in moderation, these fats can help to lower cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. Polyunsaturated fats are found mostly in plant oils, such as olive, sunflower and soybean. Eating the complete sources (not just the oils) of these foods also have positive effects on health as they too contain polyunsaturated fats. Some other sources include walnuts and tofu. Polyunsaturated fats contain Omega 3 (for increased heart health) and Omega 6 (for growth and synthesis of hormones). Fatty fish such as salmon, trout and mackerel are high in Omegas.
Monounsaturated fats are the second good fat to include in the human diet. They contain vitamin E which is an antioxidant and prevents oxidative damage to the body. Foods which contain this good fat include olives, avocados, coconut, almonds, brazil nuts and sesame seeds.
“The bad guys”
Saturated + Trans
These are the fats which should be eaten sparingly; saturated fats and trans fats. These two types of fat raise the bad cholesterol levels (LDL cholesterol), clog arteries and increase the risk for heart disease. Not exactly high on the list of wants for the human body! Saturated fats are found in animal products and vegetable fats that are liquid at room temperature (such as palm oils). As for trans fats, there are two kinds; naturally occurring and artificial trans fats. Naturally occurring trans fats are found in the guts of some animals which are then passed on to humans through consumption of products or by products of animals (e.g. cuts of meat and dairy foods). Artificial trans fats are created by manufacturers through industrial processes to create a food, for example hydrogenising liquid vegetable oils. The World Health Organisation promotes a shift away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats, towards the elimination of industrial trans fats to minimise health implications.
What’s to love about fats?
As well as providing us with energy, consuming the right type of fat helps us in a variety of ways including;
insulating the body
protecting our vital organs
helping with blood clotting
helping the body to absorb fat soluble vitamins (D, E, K, A)
combat free radical damage and slow signs of ageing
improve the appearance of skin, and
reduce inflammation in the body
Fat is crucial for our health and wellbeing, and is vital for many more processes in the body than we would think! By incorporating sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such olive oil, almonds, avocados, walnuts and fatty fish (up to twice per week), this will allow our bodies to function optimally.
American Heart Association. (2017). Polyunsaturated fats. Retrieved on April 20, 2018, from: https://healthyforgood.heart.org/eat-smart/articles/polyunsaturated-fats
American Heart Association. (2017). Monounsaturated fats. Retrieved on April 20, 2018, from https://healthyforgood.heart.org/eat-smart/articles/monounsaturated-fats
New Zealand Nutrition Foundation. (2018). Fat. Retrieved on April 25, 2018, from https://nutritionfoundation.org.nz/nutrition-facts/nutrients/fat
World Health Organisation. (2015). Key facts. Retrieved on April 25, 2018, from http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet
Zelman, K. M. (2007). The skinny on fat: good fats vs. bad fats. Retrieved on April 25, 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/skinny-fat-good-fats-bad-fats#1