Health & Vitality Understanding Good Fats vs. Bad Fats Posted by: Team Tony
The word “fat” gets a bad rap. The truth is that we need some fat in our diet to perform at our optimal level. To fuel up for peak performance, you must first understand what good fats and bad fats are.
Good fats are heart healthy and a great source of energy. They are an important part of any sustainable healthy diet. And the “bad fats”? These are the ones we need to stay away from, also known as saturated or trans fats. The first step in developing a healthy diet is understanding the science that separates good fats from bad fats.
What are good and bad fats?
The key to a healthy diet is to really understand the nutrient composition of our food. You need to understand how we distinguish good fats from bad fats. If you want to add more “good” fats or stay away from “bad” fats, you need to know what they are and how they affect your body.
Good fats support your body and brain functions. They also work to keep certain diseases, such as diabetes, away. They occur naturally in whole foods and plants. Bad fats don’t exist naturally. They are modified food sources that are more shelf stable. They have no nutritional value and contribute to our cholesterol levels. Bad fats can also lead to diseases like diabetes, heart disease, or other life-threatening ailments.
What are good fats?
There are two types of good fats: polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) and monounsaturated (omega-9 fatty acids). These two types of fats are essential for a healthy life. Without these two types of fat, your brain and body cannot function optimally.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids support healthy brain and heart function. They are known to reduce symptoms of ADHD and depression, as well as protect against dementia and memory loss. These good fats also support our joints, bones and skin, reduce fatigue and improve memory.
Since our body cannot produce these ingredients on its own, we have to get them through our diet. To increase your intake of these good fats, eat more plant-based foods like flaxseed oil or walnuts or certain types of seafood and fish.
Omega-9 fatty acids also support the heart, but what makes them essential is their ability to improve absorption of vitamins and prevent diseases like diabetes and stroke. These types of good fats are found in whole foods and oils like sunflower or olive oil.
Is Saturated Fat Good or Bad?
Saturated fats, along with trans fats, are what we call “bad fats.” Avoid both of these types of fats to keep your diet as healthy as possible. If you really don’t want to give it up entirely, only consume it in strict moderation.
Saturated fats come from animal products like meat, chicken, eggs, and dairy products, including cheese and milk. Certain oils, such as palm and coconut oil, also contain saturated fat.
Trans fats are most commonly found in processed meats and foods. They don’t occur naturally. Rather, they are formed through a process called hydrogenation, or when oils are converted to solid fats. A good keyword to look for when checking the nutritional values of your foods is “hydrogenated oil.” Hydrogenated oils are trans fats.
Both trans and saturated fats have absolutely no nutritional value. They raise your cholesterol levels and have a negative effect on the body. Treat them for the toxins they are and avoid them whenever possible.
Examples of good and bad fats
It is possible to replace bad fats with good ones. You just need to know exactly what good and bad fats are. Examples of foods and ingredients that contain good fats are:
Avocados Legumes (beans and peas) Nut oils and butters Vegetable oils, including corn, sunflower and safflower Seeds, including sesame and sunflower seeds Seafood, including salmon, sardines and herring Flaxseed Walnuts
To stay healthy, you need to minimize bad fats, such as:
Fried foods Vegetable fat Packaged snacks, including crackers and chips Prepackaged baked goods, including pastries, cookies, muffins, and cakes Red meat Ice cream Full-fat dairy, including milk, cream, and cheese Tropical oils, including coconut and palm oil
Do you see a lot of delicious foods on this list? The good news is that you don’t have to eliminate it from your diet entirely. It’s still okay to indulge in bad fats on occasion. The key is not to make these bad fats a major part of your diet.
You can also work on replacing bad fats with good ones. A 2015 study found that replacing saturated fat or bad fat with polyunsaturated fat or good fat had a significant effect on reducing the risk of heart disease.
A 2017 article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine also reported that the risks of bad fats’ effects on heart health may have been overstated. While this doesn’t mean you have to go out and eat a ton of bad fat, it does mean you can enjoy an occasional treat without worrying about ruining your health.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to good fats versus bad fats is that some fat is necessary. Even bad fats can sometimes be enjoyed in moderation. Good fats are necessary to improve your brain and body function and help you live longer. If you prioritize a diet high in good fats, you can occasionally consume foods high in bad fats as long as you are mindful and moderate.
Now that you’ve learned some examples of good and bad fats, you know what types of fats will help your brain and body — and what types of fats are better left on your plate.
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