Fats are a macronutrient that our body requires to survive and just like us, they come in all shapes and sizes… literally. Technically speaking, fats are made of molecules called triglycerides and their differences in structure determines whether they are good or bad for you.
So yes, good fats do exist and your body needs them! Fats are a major source of energy and are essential for absorbing vitamins and minerals, building cell membranes to protect each cell, reducing inflammation, and maintaining healthy muscle movement. But, the secret to achieving these benefits is choosing the RIGHT type of fat!
GOOD VS. BAD FATS
All fats are characterized with a similar structure. Hence the name TRIglycerides, fats are composed of three fatty acids chains held together by a backbone of carbon and hydrogen atoms called, glycerol. The slight differences in each molecule’s size and shape translates into critical differences on their effect on health and function.
Saturated fats, commonly known as, “bad fats,” are composed of only single bond fatty acids. Their shapes can vary widely and its single bonds transform it into a solid at room temperature. These characteristics increase blood clotting and lead to an increased risk in coronary heart disease.
“Good fats,” or unsaturated fats, are composed of both single and double carbon bonds. Unsaturated fats can be broken down into monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and trans fats. While monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good, trans fats are not.
TRANSFATS = BAD FATS
Do not be fooled when you see “trans fat” written underneath unsaturated fats on your food labels. Trans fats are dangerous for your health! In fact, consuming it is far worse than consuming saturated fats. This is because even though trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat (AKA “good fat”), their unique structure increases the amount of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in the blood stream. High consumption of trans fat is linked to diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, stroke, and more. Trans fat’s negative effect on health is so serious that for every 2% of calories consumed from trans fat, the risk of heart disease rises by 23%.
Although these foods are dangerous, do not be alarmed if you see trans fat content in your meat. These fats are naturally occurring and do not impose serious health issues. What you must look out for are man-made or “hydrogenated fats.” These are scary because they are not always transparent on your food labels.
Lucky for you, we have the key words you can look for to ensure safe dieting: partially hydrogenated. This phrase is a serious indicator screaming DO NOT EAT and can be located in the ingredients list of your everyday foods. Keep in mind to beware of advertisements saying “0 grams of trans fat.” The Food and Drug Administration allows food brands to advertise 0 grams even if it contains 0.5 grams PER SERVING. Serving sizes are not controlled by the FDA, so this amount can be deceiving.
Fortunately, these man-made trans fats are quickly fading away from the food industry worldwide.
MAIN SOURCES OF FAT
It is important to understand that choosing the right fats is critical for your health. To put this in perspective, there are three macronutrient groups; proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. While carbohydrates and proteins contain 4 calories per gram, fats are more than double with 9 calories per gram!
LIST OF GOOD FATS
- Olive oil
- Whole egg
- Peanut Butter
- Dark Chocolate!
LIST OF BAD FATS
- Microwave popcorn
- Frozen Pizza
- French Fries
FAT IS GOOD (IN MODERATION)
Take for example an avocado and pancake mix. An avocado is about 75% fat and pancake mix about 10% fat, however, avocado is healthy and pancake mix is not. The difference is that avocado consists of primarily trans fats and high fiber, while pancake mix is high in trans fat and sugar.
As you see, it is not about how much fat you eat, but rather what kind of fat you eat.