Good VS Bad Fats

When it comes to the word fat, most will assume the worst – it’s the notion that low-fat foods will keep you from gaining unwanted weight, that drives this false norm. Look around you at the supermarket, there is an abundance or low-fat options but, fats are actually a vital component of our diet. So, what are the different types of fat and how do they differ?

The Breakdown
There are four different types of dietary fats: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, trans and saturated (refer to table below for some examples).

Mono and poly fats are considered to be the good fats and also our main source of omega-3’s. They can lower the risk of heart disease, improve cholesterol levels, aid in insulin sensitivity, control weight gain, regulate mood and support positive brain function and development.

There is an on-going debate over saturated fats and whether they should be considered a good fat. Many will argue that saturated fats promote heart disease and stroke, while others argue it controls weight gain and therefore, overall well-being. There is no clear-cut consensus at this point however, in this case, I would personally use the words ‘everything in moderation’.

Trans fats however, are what we consider bad fats! Trans fats are created when a normal fat molecule is transformed into an artificial fat, by a process called hydrogenation. This artificial fat should be completely restricted from your diet – there are absolutely no positive health benefits.

Polyunsaturated Monounsaturated Saturated Trans
Walnuts Avocado Butter Processed foods
Pepitas Olives Milk Deep fried foods
Salmon Almonds Fatty Meats Biscuits
Tuna Cashews Coconut Oil Pastries

What are Omega- 3’s?
The average person consumes enough Omega-6 however, lacks a healthy ratio of Omega-3’s. There are 3 different types of Omega-3 fatty acids: EPA and DHA ,found in fish and algae and ALA, found in plants. ALA is a much lower form of Omega-3 however, still converts to EPA and DHA in low levels. It’s important to maintain a healthy Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio, as research has shown remarkable benefits including:
–  reducing symptoms of depression, ADHD and bipolar;
–  easing inflammatory conditions;
–  regulating mood;
–  reducing heart disease, stroke and cancer risk;
–  increasing cognitive function.

Foods high in Omega-3 include: salmon, herring, mackerel, oysters, anchovies, seaweed, walnuts, flaxseed, brussels sprouts, kale, spinach and parsley; just to name a few.

What now?
So, what should you take from all of this?  Don’t be afraid of fats – the right fats are extremely good for you! Start being conscious of your intake by consuming mainly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, limiting your intake of trans fats and eating saturated fats in moderation.  In addition, try to maintain a healthy balance of Omega-3 to Omega-6 and use a variety of different food sources to receive a diverse range of positive benefits.

Sarah Major