The Skinny on Fats

When I was a teenager, low fat diets were the rage if you wanted to be healthy and/or lose weight.  If it had fat in it, it was to be avoided like the plague.  Back then (the 80’s to be exact) it didn’t matter what type of fat you ate. It was ALL was considered bad.  Avocados, olive oil, fatty fish, nuts etc. were not for you if you wanted to shed unwanted pounds.  The only things I would buy had to say ‘Low Fat’ or ‘Fat Free’ to be considered for my healthy diet. 

We now know that some fats are excellent for us and some fats are very bad for us.  In order to live a healthy, energetic life, good fats are not only important but we can’t live without them. 

Types of Fat                                               

1.     Monounsaturated fats
2.     Polyunsaturated fats (Omega fats)
3.     Saturated fats
4.     Tran-fatty acids


The Good Guys

Basically, the good fats are UNSATURATED fats.  These include MONOUNSATURATED and POLYUNSATURATED fats. The difference between poly and mono unsaturated fats is their chemical makeup.  Poly means ‘many’ chemical bonds and mono means ‘one’ chemical bond. monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and solid when chilled, whereas polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and when chilled. 

Monounsaturated Fats - Should be eaten daily.

Examples of foods that contain monounsaturated fats

·      avocados
·      olives
·      olive oil
·      canola oil
·      sunflower oil
·      seeds
·      most nuts
·      most nut butters
·      fish (halibut, sablefish, mackerel)

Benefits of monounsaturated fat

· raises good HDL & lowers LDL
· decreases risk for breast cancer
· reduces risk of heart disease & stroke
· aids in weight loss
· ease pain & stiffness in arthritis
· reduce belly fat
· helps control blood sugar

Polyunsaturated Fats (Known as OMEGA fats) - Aim to eat fish 3times/week and plant based polys often.

Examples of Polyunsaturated fats.

·      fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, trout, sardines)
·      sunflower oil
·      corn oil
·      flax seed oil
·      soybean oil
·      walnuts

Benefits of Polyunsaturated fats / Omega fats

·      cholesterol - raises good HDL and lowers LDL
·      anti-inflammatory
·      reduces risk of diabetes
·      lowers risk of heart disease and stroke
·      lowers blood pressure
·      combats depression
·      helps with ADHD

The Middle-of-the-Road Guys

Saturated fats used to get a bad rap, but today it’s more controversial and depends on who you talk to.  It was once said that saturated fats caused high cholesterol, clogged arteries & led to heart disease.  Recent research says there is no link. The American Heart Association recommends consuming plant-based saturated fats in moderation and animal-based saturated fats sparingly or avoided.  Avoid saturated fats if they are combined with high sugar items. 

Saturated fats are carbon atoms saturated with hydrogen atoms and are solid at room temperature. 

Saturated Fats

Should be eaten in moderation or sparingly.

Examples of foods that contain saturated fats

·      fatty beef, pork, lamb, processed meats, chicken skin
·      whole cow’s milk
·      cream
·      butter & lard
·      cheese
·      ice cream
·      palm oil
·      coconut
·      coconut oil/butter
·      some nuts


Benefits of Saturated Fats

· cholesterol - raises good HDL and lowers LDL
· cardiovascular health
· lowers risk of heart disease and stroke
· increased bone health
· increased brain health
· increased immunity


The Bad Guys

The worst fats, that should be totally avoided, are TRANS fats.  Trans fats include anything with ‘Partially-Hydrogenated Oil’ in it.  Trans fats are manufactured by adding hydrogen bonds to oils to extend the shelf life. Trans fats are cheap and add flavour to food.

Trans Fats (Should be avoided all together)

Examples of Trans Fats

·      processed foods
·      margarine
·      chips, cheezies, crackers
·      pastries, cakes, cookies, doughnuts
·      soda pop
·      most microwave popcorn
·      fried fast foods

Adverse Health effects of Trans Fats

· raises LDL and lowers good HDL
· raise cholesterol
· increases risk of heart disease and stroke
· increases risk of developing type 2 Diabetes

So now we have an overall scope of the good, the bad and the ugly fats.  Remember that healthy fats should make up approximately 20-30% of your calories per day and are essential for superior health. So based on a 2000 calorie day, you should consume approximately 50 grams of healthy fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat). Trans fats should make up ZERO% of your calories per day. 

Questions, comments, concerns, queries, conundrums?  Don’t hesitate to ask. 

Yours in health,

Kathi Ells
Holistic Nutritionist

American Heart Association
Harvard Health Publication: Harvard Medical School
Livestrong: Andrea Johnson 2015
Mayo Clinic: Healthy Lifestyle/Nutrition & Healthy Eating

Shelby Stewart