Good Fats vs Bad Fats – What’s the Difference?

Fats play a great role in our diet and are very important for our health. We all feel a bit embarrassed when we hear the word ‘fat’ but everything is not that scary. There are different types of fats, both healthy and unhealthy ones. Of course, if you know the difference between fats, it can help you determine which ones to avoid and which to eat in moderation.

Although fats are higher in energy than any other nutrient, their consumption is vital. But of course, in terms of balance. If you consume too much fats (even healthy ones), it will lead you to rapid weight gain. That’s why I always say that’s very important to balance your diet.

What fats to avoid?

There are two types of fats that are harmful to your health. They are saturated fats and trans fats. The first ones should be consumed very sparingly while the second ones should be avoided at all.

I must admit that I really like eating in a healthy and balanced way, I try to avoid most unhealthy foods. And saturated and trans fats are not the exception. But of course, I’m a human and I make an exception sometimes but most of the time I eat healthy.

Saturated fat

Most saturated fats are animal fats. Eating greater amounts of saturated fat is linked with an increased risk of heart disease and high blood cholesterol levels. These fats are usually found in:
Animal-based products

  • Meat – fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb and chicken (for example, dark chicken meat and chicken skin), processed meats like salami
  • Dairy foods – butter, sour cream, full fat milk, cheese
  • Some plant-derived products – palm oil, coconut oil, coconut milk and cream, cocoa butter

Many manufactured and packaged foods:

  • Fatty snack foods – potato chips or savoury crackers
  • Deep fried and high fat take away foods – hot chips, pizza, hamburgers
  • Pastries and pies – tarts, pasties, croissants
  • Savoury biscuits and so on

Saturated fats are not so bad as they may seem because they may also contain healthy amino acids (for example, in red meat). But it doesn’t mean that you must consume them every day. Once a week will be enough. As for me, I have been eating red meat even more often since I was pregnant. As you can see, there are no absolutely harmful products. All we need to do is to balance what we consume.

Trans fat

Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been processed. Trans fat can raise ‘bad’ cholesterol and suppress ‘good’ cholesterol which is a major risk factor for heart disease. Trans fats are also linked to an increased risk of inflammation that can cause harmful health effects in the body. This type of fats is the worst for you that’s why it is important to lower the amounts of trans fats as much as possible to help you stay healthy and feel good.
Trans fat are found in:

  • fried foods – french fries, deep-fried fast foods, doughnuts
  • margarine
  • baked goods – cookies, cakes, pastries (Again, here I mean store-bought products. If you cook at home using healthy fats, it’s OK.)
  • processed snack foods – crackers, popcorn

It is great for health to replace saturated and trans fats with healthier fats.

What fats are healthy?

Unsaturated ones. They play an important part in a healthy and balanced diet. Unsaturated fats help reduce the risk of heart disease and balance cholesterol levels (unsaturated fats lower cholesterol levels if they replace saturated fats in the diet).

There are two main types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Monounsaturated fats

Monounsaturated fats can be found in:

  • nuts – cashews, almonds, peanuts, pecans
  • vegetable oils – olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil
  • peanut butter and almond butter
  • avocado

Polyunsaturated fats

Polyunsaturated fats can be found in:

  • omega-3 fats which are found in fish (salmon, herring, sardines, trout), walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, canola oil
  • omega-6 fats which are found in some seeds (pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds), vegetable oils (safflower, corn oil, sesame oil), tofu, roasted soybeans and soy nut butter, some nuts (brazil nuts, walnuts)

Remember, healthier fats are an important part of your diet, so don’t be afraid of them. But it’s still crucial to consume all fats sparingly because all fats are high in calories.

Keep in mind that the minimal amount of healthy fat you should consume per day depends on your weight. And if it is within normal limits, this amount equals 1 gr. per 1 kg. of your weight.

And of course, don’t ignore the front-of-package marketing and always read the ingredient list. It will help you to make a right choice and stay healthier.

Balance your diet and remember, whatever you do, you do it for yourself!