Good fats vs. “bad fats”: to eat or not to eat?
A lot has been said on the web about good and bad fat types. However, is this real or is it just a myth? There are good and bad fats fighting for your figure and health? Here is all you need to know about this eternal dilemma.
Good and bad fat. We all have read or heard about this eternal dilemma. One group will help you to lose weight and stay healthy while the other will harm your body and overall health.
However, this mistaken fight might be an elaborate myth. Since there are many types of fats, every one of them with a function to fulfill on our dietary regime, and, more importantly, in our overall health, it is essential to properly classify, identify and determine whether this or other fat types will help to our current health state to know each of them.
In this article, we will try to show you all that you need to know about fats and how to properly use them to maintain or recover your health and physique.
Some facts about fat
Like we said before, there are many types of fats out there. Your own body makes fat from storing the excess of carbs and calories consumed daily by you.
The fats you find in your daily meals are called dietary fats since they are the ones we consume to obtain energy for our bodies (1).
Fats are an important food group to maintain your overall health since it helps to support many essential body functions. For example, some vitamins need fat to be dissolved and the use of your system.
At the same time, some types of fats are thought to play part in developing heart diseases and conditions such as atherosclerosis. Fats are an energy source very high on calories which is the reason why abusing them may contribute to weight gain thus leading to poor health conditions.
When did fats become the bad guy?
Early researches on fats are the one to blame about becoming fat a prohibited word.
In the 1930s a study made by Russian attributed high-cholesterol diets on animals may cause the appearance of a heart condition called atherosclerosis (2).
Between the ’40s and 50’s a research called the Seven Countries contributed to the later hypothesis affirming that saturated fat increased blood cholesterol, which increased the risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease and early death (3).
Dietary cholesterol: good disguised in the bad label
Dietary cholesterol is a type of fat that can be found in many daily food sources.
Some sources are egg yolks, animal fats or oils such as butter, animal liver, fish or fish oil, meat, cheese and baked merchandise made with animal fat (4).
When consumed in high quantities your liver will tend to regulate the body’s production from this; this means that your body regulates to avoid increasing cholesterol blood levels over normal.
Researches have shown that dietary cholesterol is not actively associated with heart disease and strokes (5). However, some people might be more sensitive to cholesterol effects and blood levels – which is a quarter of the current US population -. For them, is necessary to limit dietary cholesterol daily consumption since it can cause a rise of “bad” LDL cholesterol levels (6).
Not all saturated fats are bad for your health
Saturated fats are a type of fat that comes mainly from animal sources; they may raise your high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol levels, leading to developing cardiovascular diseases.
Saturated fats can be good or harmful for your health depending on their composition. This type of fats can be classified at three main groups: short - they contain six carbons or less -, medium between 6 to 10 carbons chain -, long – between 12 to 22 carbons long-, and/or very long from 22 and over-.
Their effects on your health will be determined by this. For example, long-chain fats such as peanut oil and canola oil can be protective for your system and even decrease the risk of suffering type 2 diabetes as some studies showed (7).
Trans fats – industrially made fats – are linked to heart diseases
This type of fats is the one you should be worried about. Usually, Trans fats are made by the food industry when “hydrogenating” vegetable oil.
Hydrogenating is a process that consists of bombarding vegetable oil with gas to transform liquid fats into solid ones. The most common trans-fat source are frosting, cakes, creamy fillings pies, fried foods, cookies and biscuits made with shortening or margarine.
The danger of these trans fats comes from that our body recognizes them as saturated fat, thus treating them as one. Vegetable oil trans fats are linked to contributing to increasing the risk to suffer atherosclerosis and heart disease (8).
If you want to effectively avoid the dangers of trans fat, we recommend you to read all your product labels. Avoid a product that says “partially hydrogenated” for you and your family’s health.
Unsaturated fats are the ones to look for
This type of fats is also divided by the number of atomic bonds they have. In this way, we have two types of unsaturated fat: the monounsaturated fats - which just posses one double bond- and polyunsaturated ones which have from two to six double bonds.
Monounsaturated fats have been demonstrated to improve heart health by lowering until 12% the risk of death from heart disease (9)
In addition to this, polyunsaturated fats guarantee a lower risk of 19% which may increase by 10% more for every 5% of their daily intake (10).
How to properly consume fat?
According to 015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, this is the proper way to include fats on your daily diet:
- Eliminate or stay away from trans fat
- Consume a limit quantity of saturated fat per day: less than 10 percent of your total calories
- If it is in your possibilities, swap saturated fat with healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Another suggestion from a specialist is to substitute red meat and lard with healthy oils, fish, nuts, and beans instead of refined carbs (11).