Bad Fat vs. Good Fat

We are all very familiar with being told that some fats are healthful for our bodies, and that some of our favorite foods including nuts and avocados are great to eat because they are loaded with “good fats.” Glancing at the nutrition label on the foods that you are putting into your body should not be the make it or break it, if you are not reading it properly of course. The highly misread section is that regarding fats. This is where the discretion between good fats and bad fats comes into play, as well as an understanding of trans versus saturated, etc.

Fats are crucial to survival, many of the vitamins that we need to have energy and function must be fat-soluble so that they can be absorbed by the body. The “low-fat” theory that many of us have made an effort to incorporate into our diets is actually not the best for you. Many reduced-fat products make up for the “fat” by instead incorporating refined sugars and carbohydrates. The problem with doing this is that some of the natural fats that we benefit from are diminished and replaced with ingredients that are much more harmful. Keep this in mind the next time you go to grab something and picked the “reduced-fat” version over the normal version. This should be the first step. The next would be to turn the product around and catch a glimpse of the nutritional facts. This label is a brief insight into the nutritional value of your foods, which in fact is not the “tell all” either. It is up to you as the shopper to be aware of false labeling and the claims that manufacturers can make on their packaging.
When looking at the nutrition facts of an ingredient, chances are that you check out the calories, serving size, grams of sugar, grams of fat, brief list of ingredients (if present), and that is about all that registers before you decide whether or not to toss it in your cart. The calories and serving size aspect of the label is pretty straightforward. The issue lies mainly with the measurements. Did you know that companies can say that their products contain “zero” grams of sugar as long as the amount would round down to zero? There’s no way to know whether or not refined sugars were incorporated into the product when it comes to the labels on some foods, but it is definitely something to be aware of! So as far as avoiding refined sugars and carbohydrates, eating raw and natural foods is your best bet. The next section to pay attention to is the fats section. You may look at measurement of fat, see a few grams, and automatically think that you should not be eating it. This is not the case. The fat that is on the labels takes into consideration both good and bad fats. Truth is, the little number does not necessarily play any role in why you are not shedding those unwanted pounds off of your waistline, in fact those very fats could actually contribute to speeding up the weight loss process!

Now that we know that we should not automatically disregard foods that are high in fat, we need to know when and where that rule is appropriate. Let us take a look at the three different categories of fats and decipher whether or not they are “good fats” or “bad fats” and where they are likely to appear in our diets.

3 Types of Fats: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

First: The Good…

Unsaturated fats are good Unsaturated fats are the good news! These types of fats are broken up into two specific categories. You can receive these healthful fats in the monounsaturated form as well as the polyunsaturated form depending on the foods that you eat. These fats are encouraged because of their healthful benefits. These benefits include improving blood cholesterol levels, emotional health, cognitive function, lower the accumulation of abdominal fat, and are said to lower the risk of heart disease. I think it is pretty obvious that you want to reconsider tossing out fats after that long list of benefits! With that in mind, where can you find them?

Monounsaturated Fats:Polyunsaturated Fats:
  • Olives
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pecans
  • Cashews
  • All-Natural Peanut Butter
  • Avocados
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Flaxseed
  • Chia Seeds
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Trout
  • Sardines
  • Non-GMO Soymilk
  • Non-GMO Tofu
  • Mackerel
  • Oysters
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Brussel Sprouts

Next Up: The Bad…

The bad fats would include both saturated and trans fats, although saturated fats are arguably not as ugly as trans fats. Saturated fats had a bad rap there for a while but if they are consumed in a balanced manner then they do not need to be completely banned. For example, dark chocolate has many benefits to your well-being and contains saturated fats. Indulging in small amounts of dark chocolate is actually very good for you. Keep in mind that saturated fats can be acceptable depending on the source that they derive from. Saturated fats found in whole milk and coconut oil are not going to be as harmful as the saturated fats found in processed meats and pizza. To play it safe, avoid saturated fats as best you can and have only in moderation. Their presence in healthful foods should not be a concern, but when they in processed foods full of refined sugars and carbs they should most definitely be avoided.

Lastly: The Ugly…

Trans fats are found in cakeTrans fats are made by humans and are not healthful to our bodies in any way, shape, or form. Rather than just remaining relatively neutral to your health, they can be of great detriment. Diabetes is the most common disease linked to the consumption of these fats along with raising the bad cholesterol, and lowering the levels of the good cholesterol. Trans fats are created through the process called hydrogenation in which normal fats undergo a chemical alteration. These fats are created to preserve products that are mass produced and increase their shelf life. Unfortunately, there is no amount of the artificial fats that is healthy for you to consume. The best advice we can give you is to steer clear! Here is a brief list of foods that contain trans fats.

Trans Fats
  • Mass produced baked goods
  • Cookies, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough
  • Packaged snack foods
  • Chips, crackers, microwave popcorn, candy
  • Pre-mixed products
  • Chocolate milk, pancake mix
  • Solid fats
  • Margarine, vegetable shortening
  • Fried foods
  • French fries, chicken nuggets, breaded fish

Hopefully with this breakdown of different types of fats and a little insight on how to read the nutrition labels you will be able to make educated decisions when it comes to what you choose to consume. Do not be afraid of the fat content in almonds and avocados, and do not let the “reduced-fat” labeling trickery get to your head. Always remember moderation and balance are the keys to living a healthy lifestyle (just not when it comes to trans fats!).

Resources:
  1. Dileo, Jane. “Good Fat, Bad Fat: Learn the Difference To Lose Weight.” Women’s Health. 3 Apr. 2012. Web.

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