Good fats, bad fats. Trans-fats. Saturated fats and unsaturated fats. The list goes on!
With all the different kinds of fats out there, some of which are good for you and some of which are not, it can be hard to figure out which fats you should eat and which you shouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.
Food commercials, which promote foods that have zero trans-fats, confuse the matter even more. Of course, it’s obvious to most people that junk-food and fast-food fats are, in general, not the healthiest to consume. And then there’s the whole connection between fats and LDL and HDL. So how can you figure out which fats are good, bad or indifferent?
A Quick Review of Fats
To help you pick the good fats from the bad, let’s chew the fat and do a quick review of the different kinds of fats out there. First, you need to know something about fats: our bodies can make the different kinds of fats it needs from other kinds of fats or even from carbohydrates. There is, however, one class of fats that the body cannot make, and these are called polyunsaturated fats. We have to get these fats from our diet. It’s an important distinction, so keep it in mind as you read through the list below of all the different fats out there.
Our bodies actually need fats for a variety of processes such as energy, to absorb vitamins and minerals, in building cell membranes, to help blood clot, control inflammation, for muscle movement, and for soft skin. In fact the 2005 Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture say that adults should get 20 to 35 percent of their calories from fats with a minimum of 10 percent. The problem with fat really lies in the fact that there are some fats considered “good” fats and others that are “bad” fats and the average American has too much fat, between 34 and 40 percent in their diet. This is due to so many foods having fats hidden in them so you may not even realize how much fat you are consuming and since fat is more calorie dense than carbs or proteins, it can lead to being overweight whether from good or bad fats. Consider that fat of any type measures at 9 calories per gram while carbs and proteins only measure 4 calories per gram and you’ll see that is quite a difference. Too much fat in the diet not only leads to being overweight but also increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer and heart disease. According to Alice Lichtenstein. DSc, a researcher at Tufts University, this makes it very important to choose the right fats to include in your diet.
The Bad Fats
There are two kinds of bad fats: saturated fats and trans-fats. Both of these kinds of fats tend to increase level of LDL, the bad cholesterol, and increase the chances of heart disease.
Saturated fats are very common in food, and are solid at room temperature. These are the fats that you see in bacon and butter. There are about two dozen different kinds of saturated fats, and they are abundant in meat fats, dairy products, and certain vegetable oils, such as coconut and palm oil. Saturated fat tends to increase the amount of LDL, or bad cholesterol, in the body. Even though saturated fats can negatively affect our cholesterol levels, there are saturated fats that are good for us. According to Tim Ferriss from FourHourWorkWeek.com, the types of saturated fats found in foods like butter, cream, and coconut oil are necessary for metabolism function to operate properly as well as having other health benefits. Since the brain needs lots of healthy fats to feed it, having more of these in your diet will help it keep brain chemicals stable, keep the brain working optimally and reduce sugar cravings. Just be picky on what saturated fats you are adding to your diet.
Trans-fats are basically a human invention. A while back scientists discovered that they could heat up polyunsaturated fat, one of the good fats, from vegetable oil and turn it into solid form by introducing hydrogen gas and nickel metal particles. This is a trans-fat. This made it easier for the food industry to use the fat in their good products, and ship the resulting foods around the world. Unfortunately, trans-fats are truly unhealthy. Not only do trans-fats increase LDL, the bad cholesterol, and decrease HDL, the good cholesterol, but studies show that these fats also increase inflammation in the body. These fats also contribute to the development of heart disease, diabetes, and blood clots. In fact, these fats are so bad that Institute of Medicine says that the only safe level of trans-fats for humans is zero. Avoid trans-fats by staying away from French fries, doughnuts, margarine, vegetable shortening, and pre-packaged pastries.
The Good Fats
There are also two kinds of good fats: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. By increasing your intake of these two unsaturated fats in place of saturated and trans-fats, you get the benefits of decreasing LDL while increasing HDL, decreasing your risk of heart disease, and reducing risk of blood clots. And remember, your body can’t make polyunsaturated fats so you have get them from the foods you eat.
These fats are liquid at room temperature and are mostly found in the form of oils. Oils high in monounsaturated fat include peanut, canola, and olive oil. Foods high in these fats include avocados and nuts. These oils and foods are both good and good for you.
As with the monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. You may know these fats from two of their other names: omega-3 and omega-6.. Since our bodies can’t produce this kind of fat, we have to include them in our diet. Foods high in omega-3 and omega-6 include blue green algae, fatty fish like tuna and salmon, whole grains, and seeds. Watch out overdoing the omega-6 fatty acids however as this can cause more inflammation than necessary. The optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is 3:1. One way to be sure you get the exact ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is by taking AFA blue-green algae since it has the exact ratio of fatty acids the human body needs as well as the polyunsaturated fats that are good for you.
Well, I hope this little “chew the fat” session has helped to clarify the difference between the different kinds of fats out there. I have found that some of the best and most convenient sources of “good fats” are blue-green algae and fatty fish. Since the brain in particular needs fats to fuel it and keep it functioning optimally, this form of blue green algae with the cell wall removed delivers the good fats to the brain by being able to cross the blood brain barrier much easier.
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