Good fats, bad fats, saturated and unsaturated fats, how to recognize them and choose well?

Dietary fats may get a bad rap, but they’re vital to good health. The body needs fats for its energy and for many essential processes such as the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals. For several decades, grocery stores have been overflowing with an assortment of fat-free and low-fat food products. Because fats are high in calories, eliminating them seemed like a good way to manage weight and improve health. Unfortunately, added sugars and refined carbs are often used to replace fat in processed foods. That’s a lot of extra calories for little or no nutritional value.

There is, however, one bad fat that you should avoid: trans fatty acids. They have no nutritional value and are dangerous to health.

They are often found in:

– fried foods
– prepared meals and processed foods
– bakery products

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working to eliminate trans fatty acids from the global food supply by 2023. The other two types of dietary fat are saturated fat and unsaturated fat. Rather than trying to reduce fat, it is more useful to know more about these two types of fat and how they affect your body.

What are saturated fats?

Fats that are tight, with no double bonds between fatty acids, are called saturated fats. There are a few exceptions, but most are solid at room temperature.
Sources of saturated fat are:

– fatty cuts of meat such as beef and lamb
– certain pork and chicken products
– dairy products, including cream, whole milk, butter and cheese
– coconut and palm oils

The debate over whether eating saturated fat is bad for heart health has been going on for decades. Study results are conflicting on the impact of saturated fat on heart health, making this topic particularly confusing for consumers. While saturated fats clearly raise blood lipid levels, they also affect low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels and certain other risk factors for heart disease, such as inflammation. is uncertain whether saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. For example, a 2014 review of 32 studies including 27 randomized controlled trials involving more than 650,000 people found no association between saturated fat intake and heart disease risk.

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The review concluded that “current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low intake of total saturated fat. However, other studies have shown that eating saturated fat may increase the risk of heart disease.

Although research on this topic is ongoing, it’s important to keep in mind that saturated fat is only one part of your dietary intake. What matters most to maintaining your health and reducing your risk of disease is the overall quality of your diet and lifestyle. A diet high in saturated fat can raise your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, which increases your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

An early study showed that grass-fed beef may raise cholesterol levels less than grain-fed beef. Grass-fed lean beef is generally lower in fat. The typical Western diet is too high in saturated fat.

What is an unsaturated fat?

Unsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature. There are two main types of unsaturated fats:

1 Monounsaturated fats

Research shows that consuming plant-based monounsaturated fats may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and overall mortality. The foods highest in monounsaturated fats are:

– olive oil
– peanut oil
– the lawyers
– most nuts
– most seeds

2 Polyunsaturated fats

Your body needs polyunsaturated fats to function. Polyunsaturated fats promote muscle movement and blood clotting. Since your body does not make these types of fats, you must get them through your diet.

Polyunsaturated fats can be divided into two types: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for heart health.

The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are:

– fatty fish, such as sardines, tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring
– ground flax and linseed oil
– soybeans
– oysters
– nuts
– Sun-flower seeds
– chia seeds
– hemp seeds

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The inflammatory role of omega-6 fatty acids is debated. Most Europeans consume more than enough. Consuming too many foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids can increase inflammation in your body and increase your risk of developing certain health conditions, including obesity.

Omega-6 fatty acids are found in:

– safflower oil
– soybean oil
– sunflower oil
– walnut oil
– corn oil
According to Harvard Medical School, recent research reveals that there is not enough evidence that saturated fat increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. However, according to a 2017 study, data suggests that choosing polyunsaturated fats over saturated fats may reduce the risk. This is not the case if you replace saturated fat with sugar and processed carbohydrates. Some oils may have more health benefits than others. Rapeseed oil, although considered an unsaturated fat, is highly refined. According to a 2018 study, research has shown that it can have negative health effects. It is recommended to eat oils in moderation and to vary your consumption of types of oils.
A 2016 study found that repeated heating of vegetable oils can decrease their antioxidant activity and increase the production of free radicals, which can have adverse health effects. Avoid overheating or burning vegetable oils to retain their nutrient content.

What are the recommended levels of fat intake?

Humans need fat, so don’t deprive yourself of it. However, it is better to consume saturated fats in moderation.
Limit your saturated fat intake to less than 6%. of your daily calories. This translates to about 120 calories or about 13 grams per day.
on a 2,000 calorie a day diet. Total fat intake should be between 20 and 35 percent, which translates to 44 to 77 grams of total fat per day on a 2,000 calorie diet. However, research shows that certain high-fat diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, and low-carb diets, are beneficial for overall health. Ultimately, your energy needs, genetics, and lifestyle are the best indicators of your macronutrient needs.

Tips for ensuring your diet is balanced in fat

Choosing to incorporate nutritious sources of fat into your diet can benefit your health in many ways, including:

– increasing satiety and reducing hunger
– help you maintain a healthy weight
– improve blood lipid levels
However, not all fats are created equal.

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Here are some tips for healthy eating:

– cook with olive oil or avocado oil.
– Bake in olive, sunflower, coconut or avocado oil.
– Bake, broil or broil seafood and poultry instead of frying them.

When shopping, read nutrition labels carefully. Be careful when buying reduced-fat products, as fats are often replaced with sugars and other additives that are not good for your health. The best way to make sure you’re choosing healthy produce is to fill your basket with whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, proteins, and healthy fats.

Healthy eating starts with a diet rich in whole foods, including sources of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, eggs, and olive oil. Just as overconsumption of any macronutrient can cause weight gain, eating too many high-fat foods can cause you to gain weight if calories aren’t accounted for elsewhere in your diet. Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of heart disease and other chronic health conditions like diabetes. However, fats are an essential part of the diet. Try to choose the right types of fats and eat them in moderation as part of a healthy diet.


Chinwong S, et al. (2017). Daily consumption of virgin coconut oil increases high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in healthy volunteers: A randomized crossover trial. DOI: 10.1155/2017/7251562

Chowdhury R, ​​et al. (2014). Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk: A systemic review and meta-analysis. DOI: 10.7326/M13-1788

Clifton PM, et al. (2017). A systemic review of the effect of dietary saturated and polyunsaturated fat on heart disease. DOI: 10.1016/j.numecd.2017.10.010


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