Good fats, bad fats-what are they? How do you make healthy decisions about what to eat and which to avoid?
Fats are an indispensable part of healthy nutrition and are crucial for multiple body functions such as production of hormones and bile, insulation of organs, and absorption of fat-soluble minerals and vitamins. They help maintain healthy hair and skin, calm inflammation and help regulate blood pressure. From building cell membranes into maintaining organ health, including in the liver, eyes and brain, fats are a essential part of a wholesome diet. Which types of fats that you eat is the secret to building strong tissue and organs.
The four major types of fats
Saturated fats, poly and monounsaturated fats, and trans fats.
They aren’t at all”bad.” These fats are found primarily in animal products–red meat, lard, butter, poultry with skin and whole milk dairy products. Foods from plants which contain saturated fats include coconuts, coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil and cocoa butter. At room temperature, they are generally strong and have a high melting point, making them better for cooking at higher temperatures since they don’t go rancid. While the USDA recommends limiting saturated fats to less than 10 percent of daily calories, it’s a myth that eating saturated fats and cholesterol-rich foods cause cholesterol levels to rise and make people more prone to heart attacks. Many studies show no connection between diet and cholesterol levels; and there’s absolutely not any evidence that saturated fat leads to heart disease. Actually, as Americans have cut back on saturated fat and foods high in cholesterol, rates of heart disease have gone up. In the 1960s, Americans ate 45 percent of the calories from fat – and just 13 percent were obese. Now, while the majority of us get just about 33 percent of our calories from fat, 34 percent of us qualify as overweight!
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats
They are the two polyunsaturated fats. These are found mainly in several fish, seeds, nuts and oils from plants, and they’re liquid at room temperature. Some foods that contain these fats include salmon, trout, herring, avocados, olives, walnuts, sesame seeds and pecans in addition to vegetable oils like olive, sunflower and flaxseed oils. When left unrefrigerated, these oils have a tendency to spoil more quickly than saturated fats, which is the reason why commercial food manufacturers don’t use many unsaturated fats in their products, as they’d only last a couple of days on store shelves. Oils high in polyunsaturated fats have to be refrigerated and stored in a darkened container to prevent being damaged by heat, light or oxygen. Also, cooking hurts these oils, so best to pour flax and olive oils on food after cooking.
Polyunsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are beneficial, lowering total and (bad) LDL cholesterol levels, while raising (good) HDL levels in addition to lowering triglycerides and combating inflammation. The polyunsaturated fats consist of the omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, which are “essential” because the body can’t produce them . These omega fats are healthy for the heart and by reducing inflammation, they protect against cancer. Too much of them in the wrong balance can have a negative effect on your health, so remember that the perfect ratio is 3:1 of omega-6 to omega-3. 
It is another fat sadly common in the American diet. While some trans fat naturally occurs in tiny amounts in meats, milk, and a few plants and isn’t harmful, the kind created by partial hydrogenation of vegetables oils from the food industry creates serious health risks. So as to extend shelf life, they are used in commercially processed foods such as breads, biscuits, pies, donuts, shortening and margarine. Also called partially hydrogenated fat, trans fats not only boost the (bad) LDL cholesterol but they also lower levels of (good) HDL cholesterol, thus increasing the risk of coronary heart disease, clogging and producing the arteries more rigid. Trans fats also lead to other serious health issues including insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes, hormonal imbalance, and infertility and to increase and learning disabilities in children.
So, with just a small gain in the diet of trans fats, there’s a considerable gain in the occurrence of cardiovascular disease. Hydrogenated, trans fats not only raise the risk of heart disease but they also reduce immune function, can cause diabetes and interfere with enzymes that the body uses to protect itself from cancer.
The easiest way to approach fats would be to replace all of the bad fats in your diet with good fats. Take out the trans fat and increase polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats including some saturated fats, and increase your consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids. Eliminate processed food particularly those with processed vegetable oils and tans fats. Stick with whole foods such as the meat, fat and organ meats of grass-fed creatures. If you’re concerned about your heart, having sufficient healthy fat helps absorb nutrients like vitamin A, which protects the heart. Good fats decrease inflammation and promote cellular health and give us energy. Don’t go no-fat, go decent fat!