The Difference Between Bad Fats vs. Good Fats


Question: Does fat makes you fat? If you answered yes, you’re wrong. Well, you’re not totally wrong. Fat in general won’t make you gain weight. It really comes down to the types of fat you’re eating. But even more important than that, it also comes down to calories. Eating too many calories (namely from sugar) is what makes you fat. And when you combine high calorie foods with poor quality fats, what you create is the perfect storm for weight gain. Ever wanted to learn the lowdown on the different types of fats, how they affect your body, and how to distinguish between the good and the bad? Keep reading…

1. Trans Fat
These are an absolute no-no: AVOID AT ALL COSTS. Trans fat is man-made through a process called hydrogenation, which basically involves heating up vegetable oil in the presence of hydrogen gas and changing the structure so that the fat stays solid at room temperature but melts when heated. Trans fats raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and increase inflammation, among many other negative effects. And get this: Recent studies suggest that even if only 3 percent of your daily calories come from trans fats, you can end up raising your risk of heart disease by a whopping 23 percent. When you think of trans fats, think of one word: DEADLY. You should avoid these at all costs!

2. Saturated Fat
This type of fat is derived from animal sources. You generally find it in meat, butter, and dairy products. Saturated fat has gotten a really bad reputation over the years because it raises LDL cholesterol, but it turns out that saturated fats also do good by elevating your HDL cholesterol. Since the effects of saturated fats on LDL and HDL appear to cancel each other out, researchers are starting to change their tune. Now, saturated fats are considered good in moderation. And animal proteins are no longer under suspicion for being the main culprits in raising cholesterol and increasing your risk of diabetes: Instead, it turns out that processed carbs (like Twinkies!) are to blame.

3. Monounsaturated Fat
This is a very good fat. Monounsaturated fat raises your HDL cholesterol and lowers your LDL, helping to reduce your risk of heart disease and other health conditions. Monounsaturated fats are also easier to burn, so they’re less likely to be stored as fat. Get your monounsaturated fats guilt-free but still in MODERATION, from healthy sources like extra-virgin olive oil, almonds, avocados, canola oil, cashews, macadamia nuts, peanuts and peanut oil, pecans, pistachios, and sesame oil.

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4. Polyunsaturated Fat
Some of the polyunsaturated fats that are high in omega-6 fatty acids, like walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are really good for you. Though others, like corn, can create hormone-disrupting chemicals, or eicosanoids, that cause inflammation and damage your blood vessels. Polyunsaturated fats that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, like fish, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and tofu, are the best kind of fats you can possibly eat. Both omega-6s and omega-3s lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol, but they also lower your “good” HDL. What makes omega-3s extremely beneficial is that they also reduce inflammation, lower your risk of heart disease and heart attacks, and they’re believed to help combat many other conditions from diabetes to bipolar disorder. And like monounsaturated fats, they’re easy to burn, which makes them unlikely to stick around as stored fat.

Overall, fat is a very important macronutrient (the other 2 macronutrients are protein and carbohydrates). Fat is an excellent source of energy and enables your body to absorb more nutrients, including essential vitamins and antioxidants. Consuming fat is important for brain function, it’s essential for pregnant women because it is integral to fetal brain development, and fat also contributes to heart health, digestion, lung function, and even your eye health. Last but not least, fat makes food taste really good and helps us feel satiated.

When it comes to fat, think of it this way: Calories are a unit of energy and fat is a stored energy. If you eat too many calories of anything — whether it’s a good fat or a bad fat, a good carb or a refined carb — you’ll have a surplus of energy, so you’ll store it as fat and gain weight. It’s as simple as that.  So don’t be afraid of fat. It really does do a body good. – Doc