The difference between fats

The word ‘fat’ tends to have negative associations; especially where weight loss nutrition is concerned. However, not all dietary fats are created equally and some are actually better for you than others. Here’s the lowdown on what you need to know when it comes to fats.

Some fats are better for you than others

Although fats are high in calories and can contribute to heart disease, some fats can actually help promote aspects of good body health such as brain function and hormone balance. There are many different kinds of fats, and they all fit into two categories: Saturated fats and unsaturated fats.

Saturated fats

Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products such as meat (such as shortening and lard), eggs, dairy (such as butter) and some seafood. Trans fats are included in the group which are the uber-bad fats we want to avoid whenever possible. Trans fats are usually found in some processed foods and those cooked at high temperatures.

Saturated fats:

  • Are not so great for you.
  • Can raise total blood cholesterol and LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol levels.
  • Can increase risk of dietary cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Most fats that contain a high amount of saturated or trans fats are solid at room temperature.

Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats are generally better for you and mostly found in plant based products. These are divided into two key groups; Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats:

  • Are good for you.
  • Can help raise HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol levels.
  • Monounsaturated fats are mostly found in a variety of foods and oils such as olives, peanuts, canola and olive oil, almonds and sunflower seeds.
  • Polyunsaturated fats are mainly found in plant-based products such as sunflower, soy bean, sesame and safflower.
  • One particular type of polyunsaturated fat – Omega-3 fatty acids – may be beneficial for heart health

Most fats that contain a high amount of unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature.

Remember that all fats still have nine calories per gram so both good fats are just as likely to make you gain weight as ‘bad’ fats are. However, this is more about making better choices and picking the fats that are better for you whenever possible, as the good fats do help you stay healthy.

Photo / Flickr – David Masters

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