Why do we need fats? We need fats to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, & K) and for brain development. Plus, they make food taste delicious! For years, we were told to limit fat intake. Now, we are finding that the type of fat is more important than the amount of fat consumed. Below is a list of the types of fat with some fun facts about them, and what foods to find them in. They are in order of “eat less of these” to “eat these!”

  • Trans fat: 
    • Where to find? Partially hydrogenated oils found mainly in fried and processed foods. 
    • Pros: By 2021 partially hydrogenated oil will be eliminated from the food supply 
    • Cons: LOTS. But, trans fat increases your LDL (bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL (good cholesterol) which increases your risk for cardiovascular disease. Trans fat also triggers inflammation. 
    • Fun facts: There are very few natural sources of trans fat (small amounts in dairy and red meat), and most were made by process of hydrogenation. Trans fat helped prolong the shelf-life of processed foods. 
  • Saturated fat
    • Where to find? Animal products. Meat, butter, cheese and dairy, coconut oil
    • Pros: You can consume these- they aren’t as bad as trans fat! They taste delicious. The recommended amount is <10% of your total caloric intake. 
    • Cons: These guys may increase your risk of heart disease, and increase your LDL (the bad cholesterol)
    • Fun facts: Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature. So, if you are trying to figure out which ones to eat and avoid, if they are solid in the store on the shelf, you should maybe avoid. Coconut oil, a plant based oil, is unique because it acts like an animal fat instead of a plant based fat and raises LDL. 
  • Cholesterol
    • Where to find it: Animal products like eggs and meat
    • Pros: We need it for cell membranes and hormones.  
    • Cons: There are good and bad types of cholesterol. The bad kind is called LDL and it causes blockages in blood vessels that increase your risk for cardiovascular disease and strokes. The good kind (HDL) reduces LDL and helps reduce risk for cardiovascular disease. 
    • Fun facts: Liver makes cholesterol for us! We don’t need to eat cholesterol in our diets at all. You can lower your blood cholesterol by consuming unsaturated fats and soluble fiber!
  • Monounsaturated/Polyunsaturated fat: 
    • Where to find? Plant oils (olive oil, canola, avocado), fish,  avocados, nuts and seeds
    • Pros: Fat you SHOULD eat! Your monounsaturated fats reduce risk of heart disease, increase your HDL (good cholesterol) and lowers your LDL (bad cholesterol). It also can decrease your blood pressure. Win win.  
    • Cons: You can negate these healthy fats by cooking them (see Tips and Tricks and smoke point below)
    • Fun facts: Extra virgin olive oil is better than virgin olive oil because it has higher levels of polyphenols -antioxidants that are from plants!! 
  • Omega-6 (Polyunsaturated)
    • Where to find: corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, and walnuts
    • Pros: Omega-6 is also an essential fatty acid. The good news – most American diets have an abundance of omega-6 in them! 
    • Cons: Too many omega-6s may  lead to increased inflammation which is counter productive. 
    • Fun fact: A lot of our foods are processed with omega-6 which is why it is not difficult for us to consume enough! 
  • Omega-3 (Polyunsaturated): 
    • Where to find: Fish (wild salmon, rainbow trout, sardines, tuna), walnuts, flax and chia, dietary supplements (make sure to get one with DHA and EPA)
    • Pros: This is an essential fatty acid – essential means that we have to eat it because our body cannot make it. We need them for metabolism, and they help reduce inflammation in our body! They lower triglycerides, blood pressure, and reduce heart disease. 
    • Cons: The sources of omega-3 are expensive. 
    • Fun Fact: Some research has shown that omega-3s improve cognitive function, and help with the treatment of depression and attention disorders. There are different types of omega-3: the ALA version is from plants and is less bio-active (less potent) than the animal version called DHA and EPA. 
  • Tips & Tricks: Cooking with fats!
    • The cooking temperature is important when cooking with oils – each has its own “smoke point”
    • Once the smoke point has been past, the oil becomes carcinogenic (bad for you), and therefore should NOT be used.
    • Bottom line- don’t let your oils smoke when cooking! I stocked my house with extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil because with those two oils, I can do 98% of my cooking.
      • Dressings- I use extra virgin olive oil
      • Sauteing- extra virgin olive oil can be used as long as it is used for a short amount of time and not at high temperatures 
      • High temperature cooking- avocado oil has the highest smoke point, but is expensive. Canola and peanut oil are also good to use and more cost conscious. 
    • Substitutions for fats in cooking and baking: (making a separate post for this since this one got a bit long!)

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