Not all fats are bad fats

Not all fats are bad fats
The importance of fats
The word ‘fat’ has always had a bad reputation as it is associated with body fat and weight
gain. It was also discovered that a high fat diet contributed to obesity, heart disease and
stroke. [1] However, with time scientists began to understand that some fats are healthier
than others. [1,2] Fats are a vital macronutrient important for bodily functions. It provides
our body with energy, protects our organs, supports the growth of our cells and even helps
our body absorb key nutrients.[1,3] Scientists discovered that our bodies treat fats
depending on the length of their structural form, which can have different effects on our
health. Based on differences in structural form, fat can be divided into ‘good fats’ which are
more beneficial to our health and ‘bad fats’ which are less beneficial to our health. [4]

What are good fats ?
‘Good’ fats are also known as unsaturated fats that have a double bond within its structural
form that helps to change how our body stores and utilises fats for energy. This also makes
unsaturated fats heart healthy. Unsaturated fats can have different structural changes and
can be divided into monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.[1,4]
Monounsaturated fats have the ability to lower LDL cholesterol also referred to as “bad
cholesterol” and help improve HDL cholesterol which is referred to as the “good
cholesterol”. Due to this monounsaturated fats have been shown to reduce the risk of heart
disease, reduce inflammation and even support weight loss.[1,4] Monounsaturated fats are
found in olives, olive oil, nuts, nut butters, avocado.
Polyunsaturated fats found in plant and animal fats have a similar health effect to
monounsaturated fats and can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. [1,4] Oils
rich in polyunsaturated fats also provide fats such as omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids
which are essential for our bodies but cannot be produced by our bodies. Therefore we
need to obtain these nutrients from food.[4] Polyunsaturated fats are found in oily fish such
as sardines, mackerel, salmon, trout, oils like sunflower oil, soybean oil and even in nuts,
seeds and eggs.

What are bad fats ?
‘Bad’ fats are also known as saturated fats. Due to its structural form, it has the ability to
raise LDL cholesterol also referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’ in the body. Therefore eating too
much of these saturated fats can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and even weight
Saturated fats occur naturally in several food items. Some sources of saturated fats include
beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin on, salami, ham, bacon, tallow, lard, ghee, butter,
cheese, coconut, fried food, cream, ice cream. Cutting out all these foods can be difficult so
we need to try to balance our fat intake where possible. [1,5] E.g. choosing more lean
meats, cooking food with olive oil instead of ghee or butter, choosing more grilled or air
fried foods instead of fried foods, choosing fruit or low fat yoghurts instead of ice cream
when possible.

Trans fats can be classified as naturally occurring which can be found in milk and meat
products and artificial trans fats created by manufacturers during the industrial process of
making liquid vegetable oils into solids. Trans fats are not essential to health and has shown
to increase LDL or bad cholesterol and decrease HDL or good cholesterol which has been
shown to increase the risk of ill health effects. Trans fats can be found in fried foods,
pastries, pies, biscuits, cookies, crackers, baked goods, fast foods. [4,5]

How do I balance my fat intake?
• Don’t forget the bigger picture and your overall eating pattern
• Always include a balance diet with vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, lean
meats, dairy sources.
• Limit sugar, salt, animal fat, processed foods and alcohol.
• Use naturally occurring vegetable oils such as olive oil, canola, sunflower oil.
• Use tub margarines, nut butters, avocado, tahini, olive oil, canola oil which are made
from healthy oils instead of butter and coconut oil in cooking.

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