Good Fats versus Bad Fats: What’s the Difference?
Many of us know that having too much fat is not a good thing: however, having no fat at all is not good, either, nor is it realistic. We all need a certain percentage of fat to survive, and then some to stay healthy. However, when it comes to distinguishing what is “good fat” and what is “bad fat,” that can be a bit more difficult. From saturated fats to polyunsaturated fats, there is a variety of different kinds of fat out there. The Fit Girl has got you covered on what you should or should not consume when it comes to your diet and health.
Saturated versus Unsaturated Fats
So what are the good and bad fats? To start, one can break fats into two categories: saturated and unsaturated.
The Low-Down on Unsaturated Fats
Unsaturated fats can be further broken down into three categories: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats. Monounsaturated fats basically consist of an unsaturated carbon bond (one double bond) in the fat molecule; it tends to be liquid at room temperature, but solid at cold temperatures. Examples of monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, and sesame oil.
Polyunsaturated fats contain more than one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule, and are typically found in food products like nuts, seeds, and fish.
Trans fats are a recent invention, as they have been produced industrially since the 1950’s. They are commonly produced through the process of hydrogenation, which converts cis double bonds into trans double bonds, hence the term “trans fats.” Such fats are found in items like vegetable shortening and margarine.
Why Are Unsaturated Fats Good for You?
From an international health study conducted during the 1960’s, researchers had discovered that people from the Mediterranean had a lower rate of heart disease than those from other regions in the world, which can be contributed to their diet high in olive oil (polyunsaturated fats) and low in red meat (saturated fats). As a result, we consider unsaturated fats to protect against heart disease, as well as lower bad cholesterol and chances of getting a stroke. Another bodily benefit to consuming unsaturated fats include protection of the nerves, which helps with blood clotting and inflammation.
The Low-Down on Saturated Fats
Saturated fats are essentially fat molecules which have all single bonds between the carbon molecules. They tend to be found in animal products (meat and dairy), as well as in products like coconut oil; these items are solid at room temperature.
Why Are Saturated Fats Bad for You?
Consuming a lot of saturated fats in products like red meat, butter, and dairy products increases bad cholesterol (also known as low-density lipoprotein, or “LDL” for short). As a result, having bad cholesterol in your body leads to problems like the blockage of arteries, as well as heart disease. Because of this, scientists and nutritionists recommend limiting the amount of saturated fats and consume more unsaturated fats instead.