Nutrition 101: Fat Types & Their Sources

April 13, 2017

There are many types of fats coming from varying sources of which media makes claims to their benefits being positive or negative. Contrary to what you hear or may believe, not all fats are bad. We need fat in our diet in order to remain healthy and function properly. Here are the main types of fats and what you should know about them:

Intake Fats Sparingly

While we all need fat in our diet, it’s a good idea to consume them sparingly. While healthy fats benefit us, there can be too much of a good thing. Touch fat intake, even from healthy sources, can lead to weight gain and other health problems like cardiovascular disease.

How much fat you need per day depends on your level of exercise and calorie needs. For example, if you do not work out it’s better to reduce your intake. While there are nutrition calculators out there to help you get an idea of how much fat you should consume, it’s recommended that you talk to your doctor or a nutritionist to help you determine your nutrition needs.

Unsaturated Fats: A Healthy, Necessary Fat

Unsaturated fats come in two different profiles: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. These types of fats are one of the healthy fats that we all need in our diet that helps us get the nutrition we need.

Polyunsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature and have the benefit of:

  • Reducing cholesterol
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Benefiting cardiovascular issues
  • Enhancing weight loss

Omega-3 fatty acids are a part of this fat profile and are crucially necessary because the body does not produce these naturally. Therefore, they need to be taken in through dietary means 2-3 times a week. Foods that contain this necessary fat include:

  • Walnuts
  • Fish like anchovies and tuna
  • Sunflower seeds
Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats are included in foods such as:

  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Cooking oils like olive oil and canola oil
  • Avocados

Research has shown that eating unsaturated fats can improve your cholesterol by:

  • Reducing the amount of harmful low-density lipids (LDL), which is considered bad cholesterol in the body.
  • Increasing high-density lipids (HDL), which is productive cholesterol for bodily function.

You can get more polyunsaturated fats in your diet with strategies like putting flaxseed in your protein shakes or oatmeal. Make sure you include the sources listed above as snacks or to prepare meals.

Saturated Fats: Eat Sparingly

The next most beneficial fat are saturated fats, mostly found in animal and plant products like

  • Red meat
  • Cheese
  • Coconut oil

There are very mixed messages about this type of fat. There is no significant evidence that this type of fat increases heart disease. Most sources say it’s bad, but that doesn’t stop coconut oil from being all the rage nowadays.

Coconut oil is classified as medium chained triglycerides which has significant benefit in raising beneficial cholesterol in the body, HDL, and lower the risk to heart disease. Also the energy boost that comes with it is amazing. So it’s no wonder that it has seen a boost in popularity

Saturated fat can get a bad name because it has different thresholds and will affect people differently depending on preexisting levels of cholesterol. Regardless, it’s better to err on the side of caution and include saturated fats in your diet sparingly.

Trans Fats: Avoid These as Much as Possible

Trans fats, on the other hand, has a store of research proving its negative responses in the body. This fat is used to keep foods fresh longer and make them more flavorful and while it can be found naturally in small amounts, it is more commonly created artificially. Trans fats are most commonly found in:

  • Fried foods
  • Grain based desserts like cakes and pies
  • Butters
  • Margarine
  • Anything that has “hydrogenated” in the ingredient list

Even in small amounts, this type of fats is the worst for cholesterol levels because they raise harmful LDL and lower productive HDL levels in the body. They also create further inflammation in the body and contribute to Type II diabetes.

Thankfully, in the U.S. the FDA has banned trans fats in 2015. By doing so, they are requiring companies to remove trans fats from their foods and replace them with healthier alternatives. A welcome move to help improve our overall health.

Up Next: “Fat Burning Foods”: Fact or Myth?