With newer fad diets like the Paleo and the Ketogenic pushing to increase fat consumption, I thought it might be a good time to discuss the four different types of dietary fats, how they affect our bodies and which ones to avoid. Let’s jump right in and talk about the good, the bad and the awful fats.
Unsaturated fats, sometimes called monounsaturated, are the healthiest form of fats. They have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol, which in turn reduces the risk of developing heart disease. Foods high in monounsaturated fats are typically plant-based and include avocados, nuts and nut butters, and canola and olive oils.
Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 fatty acids which may also help lower cholesterol and support heart health. Foods that contain omega fatty acids include fish such as salmon, tuna and trout, as well as flaxseed and eggs that come from chickens that have been fed flaxseed.
Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature and are found in animal food products such as meats, cheeses and butter. Saturated fats raise the level of cholesterol in your blood as well as increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Foods high in saturated fats tend to come from animal sources and are usually high in calories and low in vitamins and minerals. The FDA recommends less than 10 percent of your daily calories come from saturated fats.
Trans fats, which may be listed as “partially hydrogenated oils," are so unhealthy that in 2015 the FDA determined they are no longer generally recognized as safe (GRAS) in human food. The FDA gave food manufacturers until 2018 to remove trans fats from their products. Trans fats increase low density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol, and lower high density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol (I try to remember it as H for Healthy). Trans fats can increase your risk for heart disease, stroke and even diabetes. Check food labels for “partially hydrogenated oils"—if it's listed, the product contains trans fats. Trans fats can be found in processed foods, baked goods, margarine, fried foods, and processed meats such as hot dogs or bacon.
The FDA recommends limiting your total fat intake to less than 30 percent of your total calories and your intake of saturated fat to less than 10 percent. For someone following a 2000 calorie diet, that is about 67 grams of total fat with only 22 of those grams coming from saturated fats. Trans fats are so unhealthy the recommendation is to limit your intake as much as possible.
Take the challenge during this next week to read those labels. How much and what kinds of fats are you eating? Think of some swaps you could make to reduce your intake or choose a healthier kind of fat. Remember, our bodies need fats to function so make your goal to limit, not eliminate, your intake of fats.
Written by: Ashley Durant, Intern with Thrive, who recently completed her master’s degree in dietetics at the University of Oklahoma School of Allied Health. Ashley will soon take her exam to become a registered and licensed dietitian in the State of Oklahoma.