Updated: Jun 9
GOOD FATS vs. BAD FATS
"Fats," often referred to in nutrition and dieting, are actually diverse groups of molecules known as lipids. Understanding the different types of dietary fats and their roles in human health can be critical in managing health risks such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
The term "good fats" typically refers to unsaturated fats, which include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated Fats: These fats have one double bond in their fatty acid chains. They are typically liquid at room temperature but can solidify when chilled. Examples include olive oil, avocado, and various nuts like almonds and cashews.
Polyunsaturated Fats: These fats have more than one double bond in their fatty acid chains. They remain liquid at room temperature and when refrigerated. Key examples include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, trout, walnuts, and flaxseeds.
Polyunsaturated fats include essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6, which are crucial for brain function and cell growth. Our bodies don't produce these, so we must get them from food.
These types of fats can help reduce levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol, increase "good" HDL cholesterol, and provide essential fats that your body needs but can't produce itself.
Bad fats usually refer to saturated fats and trans fats.
Saturated Fats: These fats have no double bonds in their fatty acid chains because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules. While not entirely bad, excessive consumption of saturated fats can increase the level of cholesterol in your blood, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. These fats are usually solid at room temperature and include items like red meat, butter, and coconut oil.
Trans Fats: These fats have been industrially modified through a process called hydrogenation to remain solid at room temperature and extend shelf life. Trans fats are the worst type of dietary fat. They not only raise your bad LDL cholesterol but also lower your good HDL cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart diseases. They're commonly found in processed foods, baked goods, and fried foods.
Differences Between Both and Why Humans Should Be Focusing on Good Fats:
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good for us because they help reduce harmful cholesterol levels, provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells, and contribute to other processes, such as the production of essential hormones.
On the other hand, while saturated fats can be part of a healthy diet in moderation, overconsumption is harmful because it raises your total blood cholesterol levels. Trans fats are even worse because they not only increase your total cholesterol levels but also deplete the good cholesterol that helps protect against heart disease.
For a healthy diet, it's crucial to focus on incorporating more good fats and reducing intake of bad fats. This means eating more fatty fish, avocados, nuts, seeds, and using oils like olive oil while reducing intake of processed foods, fatty meats, and high-fat dairy products.
However, it's essential to remember that even good fats are high in calories, so they should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Physical activity, adequate hydration, and consumption of a variety of foods are also important components of a healthy lifestyle.