The Skinny on Dietary Fats: How to tell the good from the bad
Fats. Once they were considered the enemy and we had to stay away from them. Then there were good fats, identified as an essential part of a healthy diet. But what’s the difference? How can we tell the good from the bad?
Fats are an important part of a healthy diet. They provide essential fatty acids, keep our skin soft, deliver fat-soluble vitamins, and prove a great energising fuel for our bodies. But it's easy to get confused about good fats vs bad fats, how much we should eat, how to avoid clogging our arteries with trans fats, and the role Omega-3 fatty acids play in heart health.
So let’s just break it down.
The good: Unsaturated fats
- Lowers rates of cardiovascular disease
- Lowers bad cholesterol
- Provides essential fats with your body needs but can’t produce itself
The unsaturated fats are the good guys – including polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. When eaten in moderation they are used to replace saturated or trans fats, can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. One type of polyunsaturated fat is omega-3 fatty acids.
The bad and the ugly: Saturated fats, artificial trans fats, hydrogenated oils and tropical oils
- Increases risk of heart disease
- Raises bad cholesterol levels
Saturated fats are found in animal products (meat, poultry skin, high-fat dairy, and eggs) and in vegetable fats that are liquid at room temperatures, such as coconut and palm oils.
Artificial trans fats are used extensively in frying, baked goods, cookies, icings, crackers, packaged snack foods, microwave popcorn, and some margarine.
The best way to keep on top of fats in your diet is to become a label reader. On the nutrition facts panel, you'll find all the information you need to make healthful choices. Look for foods that are low in total fat and well as in saturated and trans fats.
Choose a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Experiment with light and reduced-fat salad dressings. Replace fattier sauces with vinegar, mustard, and lemon juice. Try to use unsaturated liquid oils, such as olive oil, instead of butter or partially hydrogenated margarine. Limit your consumption of processed foods, fried foods, sweets, and desserts.