A comprehensive guide to healthy vs unhealthy fats

Understanding the details of healthy fats vs unhealthy fats can feel as complicated as the plot of a Christopher Nolan film.

For decades, fat has been depicted as a substance that is bad for the body, but there’s more to them than meets the eye.

People have often misquoted research materials to generalize fats as the villain of the food world. While some fats may lead to poor well-being, not all fats are the same. Consuming the right kind of fat can promote good health.

The internet is filled with opposing opinions, conflicting studies, and varying observations on the topic. So, we’ve looked at the latest research materials from credible sources to help you understand these controversial macronutrients in a better manner.


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Some Interesting Facts For You

All fats, regardless of their form, have the same number of calories – 9 per gram. To put this into a calorific context, proteins and carbohydrates both have about 4 calories per gram.

Your body is programmed to store fats to keep you warm and create a soft shield for your nerves, innards, and skeleton. Suppose your food intake declines due to some physical or professional emergency. Do you know what takes place then?

Your body will tap into the secret fat reserve to power you up for the rest of the day. OOPS! The villain suddenly turned into a hero now.

So, read on to understand more about what fats you should consume and what fats you should stay away from.

The three main types of fats

  • Saturated fats
  • Unsaturated fats
  • trans fats

Now, let’s break them down.

Consume Saturated Fats In Moderation

A sliced ​​piece of raw salmon
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Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. They are mostly found in animal-based and dairy products such as lamb, pork, chicken, butter, cheese, and ice cream. According to the American Heart Associationtoo much-saturated fat can up the amount of LDL or bad cholesterol in your body.

This may drastically increase your weight and put you at a higher risk for cardiovascular issues and heart diseases. If you’re a meat-head or someone with a sweet tooth, letting go of these foods can be difficult. Hence, it is recommended that you limit the intake of cuisines that are high in saturated fats and choose other, healthier substitutes to fulfil your dietary requirements.

Remember, these foods form an aspect of your healthy lifestyle. But don’t overdo things. Know when to draw the line and not go overboard. Plan your meals in such a manner that ensures you don’t receive more than 6% of your daily calories from saturated fat.

Here are some techniques that can help:

Limit your scoops of ice cream- especially on those cheat days

Cut down on those sugary beverages

Be lenient with that spread of butter

Treat meat as a side dish- the idea is to be moderate.

Satisfy your hunger pangs with leafy greens

So, having a slice or a few slices of pizza with some extra cheese as a snack every once in a while is cool. But swapping it for an entire meal regularly is not!

Unsaturated Fats Have Unbelievable Benefits

Fish, nuts, oil, seeds, and avocado on a counter.
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Your body loves unsaturated fats.

Unlike their saturated counterparts, these types of fats are liquid at room temperature.

But the contrast doesn’t end there. They’re largely derived from plant-based ingredients and fish and are brimming with many benefits.

Several dietary guidelines recommend making unsaturated alternatives your primary source of fats. In your everyday battle of healthy fats vs unhealthy fats, make those small daily decisions that’ll help you swap saturated fats with these heart-healthy replacements.

This ‘good fat’ is further subdivided into two categories:

Monounsaturated fats

A bunch of healthy nuts, avocados, and olive oil.
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Studies have shown that consuming foods that are rich in monounsaturated fats may lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels and improve the proportion of HDL cholesterol. This highly favors your heart health and reduces the risk of diseases.

Some abundant sources of this friendly fat include:

  • olive oil
  • peanut oil
  • canola oil
  • Avocados (Weren’t just a fad, were they?)
  • Nuts (Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)
  • Peanut and almond butter

Polyunsaturated fats

A sliced ​​piece of raw salmon
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Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) play an important role in maintaining your nerve, brain, and muscle health. There are several kinds of PUFAs such as omega-3 that can assist against heart diseasestroke, arthritis, and a few kinds of cancer.

Omega-6 also feature in Polyunsaturated fats. These are absolutely essential to gaining energy and improving your immune system.

It’s important to maintain a good balance as too much omega-6 may increase the chances of inflammation in your body.

Since your body can’t produce these fats, you must obtain them through foods such as:

  • Sardines
  • Mackerel
  • Trout
  • salmon
  • herring
  • Safflower, grapeseed, soybean, and sunflower oils
  • Brazil nuts, pine nuts and walnuts
  • Sunflower, chia, and hemp seeds

But again, remember the golden rule of moderation. Since these fats are high in calories. If you go overboard, you might pull in some extra pounds that can hamper your well-being.

Avoid Trans Fats

Junk food kept on a table.
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Dodge trans fats like how you dodge spoilers from your favorite show!

Trans fats are created by food manufacturers through a process called hydrogenation. Here, hydrogen is combined with vegetable oil to transform liquid fat into a solid form. Hence, they’re mostly present in packaged and processed foods. Your body rarely achieves any benefits from these types of fats.

Consuming high quantities of trans fats can lead to various health-related issues such as inflammation in the body, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, stroke, and other adverse health conditions.

Here are some foods that you must stay away from or have only once in a while:

  • Commercially baked food (cakes and cookies)
  • Fried products (French fries and fried chicken)
  • microwave popcorn
  • processed snacks
  • Fast foods (Like chips and crackers)
  • Trans fats also raise bad (LDL) cholesterol and reduce good (HDL) cholesterol levels.

Due to unhealthy processing and high sugar levels, foods that are high in trans fats can also be a major cause of weight gain. Therefore, of all the fat that exists on this list, this is possibly the one you should steer clear of.

Now, every once in a while, we all want to let our hair down and have a bite of this heart-appetising (yet unhealthy) fat. After all, we are humans who sometimes can be ruled by our taste buds.

In those instances, moderation is the key. And remember to follow it up with a quick walk or a light physical activity.

Don’t Just Pick Healthy Fats, Pick A Healthy Lifestyle

We’ve spoken a lot about healthy fats vs. unhealthy fats, but that’s just one piece of a larger puzzle.

Simply picking good fats doesn’t automatically lead to a healthful life. You must also incorporate positive habits and make productive choices that’ll complement your diet.

For example – even after getting all the good stuff on your plate, if you choose a sedentary lifestyle, you’re not going to see the results you seek.

If you can’t regularly go to the gym, small decisions like opting for the stairs or going for brisk walks can go a long way in keeping those kilos away from you.

Yeah, we all can be lazy at times and may not want to drag ourselves daily to hit the gym. However, there’s still hope. There are ways that show you how to stay in shape without working out.

And you’ve probably heard this a million times, but we’ll say it again for the ones in the back – STOP SMOKING AND BINGE DRINKING!

The Bottom Line

Fats have been demonised as something harmful that must be avoided at all costs.

While this is partially true, there are several good fats that we require to maintain a sound body.

Saturated fats, under normal conditions, are solid and mostly found in meat and dairy foods.

But too much of it can increase your harmful cholesterol levels, hence you must consume it in limited quantities.

On the other hand, unsaturated fats are liquid and are referred to as good fats. They’re additionally bifurcated into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The former is found in plant-based ingredients and the latter is present in fatty fish.

You must avoid trans fats or minimize them as much as you can. They’re present in packaged and processed food and stuffing yourself with them, in the long run, can cause severe health risks.

Finally, simply micromanaging your food isn’t enough. For overall well-being, we must look beyond fats and choose an active lifestyle and good habits.

So, tell us, what’s your favorite source of good fats?

References:

  1. Thorpe, M., MD PhD. (2018, April 27). HealthyFats vs. Unhealthy Fats: What You Need to Know. Healthline. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/healthy-vs-unhealthy-fats
  2. Madell, R. (2020, September 2). Good Fats, Bad Fats, and Heart Disease. Healthline. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/heart-disease/good-fats-vs-bad-fats

  3. Saturated Fat. (2022, July 20). www.heart.org. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/saturated-fats

  4. Monounsaturated Fat. (2022, July 20). www.heart.org. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/monounsaturated-fats

  5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution. (2019, May 22). The Nutrition Source. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/

  6. Berry, J. (2020, February 11). Polyunsaturated fat: Everything you need to know. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/polyunsaturated-fat

  7. Facts about trans fats. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000786.htm

  8. Link, MRS (2022, February 8). Do We Still Need to Look Out for Trans Fats in 2022? Healthline. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/trans-fat-foods
  9. Newman, T. (2020, March 16). Types of fat: Can fat be good for you? Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/141442

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