The Good and Bad about Fat

Forget everything you have been told about low-fat diet and trust me when I say cutting fat, especially ‘good’ fat from your diet will work against your waistline. It’s true; ‘bad’ fat does lead to weight gain, cholesterol issues and increased risk of heart disease, but ‘good’ fat has the opposite effect in the body. So the answer is more what type of fats you should be eating and avoiding.

To understand the difference, here is a list of the types of fats you get:

• Monounsaturated
• Polyunsaturated
• Saturated
• Trans

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (the good kind) are what you want; they are good for your heart and lower your cholesterol. Appearance wise they are fats which tend to be liquid at room temperature. Examples of these are:

Monounsaturated fat:
• Olive, Canola, Sunflower, Peanut and Sesame oil
• Avocados
• Olives
• Nuts – almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashew
• Peanut butter

Polyunsaturated fat:
• Soybean, Corn and Safflower oil
• Walnuts
• Sunflower, sesame, flaxseed and pumpkin seeds
• Fatty fish – salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines
• Soymilk

Saturated and trans fats (the bad kind) increase your risk of heart disease and cholesterol. Appearance wise, these fats tend to be solid at room temperature. Examples of these are:

Saturated fat:
• Animal fat (beef, lamb, pork, chicken especially the skin)
• Whole fat dairy products (milk, butter, cheese, cream, ice-cream)
• Lard, palm and coconut oil

Trans fats (the most dangerous yet easily accessible):
• Fried foods
• Commercially baked goods – pastries, biscuits, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough
• Packaged snack food – potato/corn/tortilla chips, candy, crackers, popcorn
• Pre-mixed products – cake/pancake mix, powdered drink etc.
• Stick margarine and vegetable shortening

No amount of trans fat is healthy and should therefore be eliminated or consumed in minimal quantities. Why? Because a trans fat is a normal fat molecule that has been modified (heated and combined with hydrogen gas) making it less likely to spoil which is good news to food manufacturers however extremely bad for you. These fats are the ones largely responsible for major health problems relating to heart disease and cancer. So think twice before you eat, read food labels and watch out for trans fat or “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredients.

So rather than cutting out fat completely, what you should be aiming for is replacing saturated and trans fats with good fats. The best sources of healthy fat are vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and fatty fish in particularly Omega-3 fat. The body cannot make these essential fatty acids, which is why it is so important to include them in our diet. If you are vegetarian or don’t like any of these foods listed, you should substitute with a good quality Omega-3 supplement.

In short, not all fats is equal, it’s the mix of fats that you eat rather than amount when it comes to your cholesterol and healthy. The key is to eat good fats and less bad fat.