In the ‘90s, it was a popular trend to avoid all fats in food. It was assumed that eating fat
would make you fat. During this time, low-fat snacks and other foods were developed, but the
lack of fat was often compensated with added sugars. While some fashion trends from the ‘90s
are coming back in 2018, it’s best to let the no fat trend die in the ‘90s.
While there are some bad fats that should be avoided at all costs, eliminating all fats
from your diet can actually be harmful to your health. Fats are essential for life as they are vital
to many processes in the body such as cell synthesis and nutrient absorption.
Fats also are responsible for your cholesterol levels. Having high cholesterol is
notoriously bad, but there are different types. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is the
“bad cholesterol”; the “good cholesterol” is high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Some foods that
contain healthy fats can raise HDL levels while lowering LDL levels in the blood.
Fats can be tricky to navigate because not all of them are created equally. There are
three main types of fat: unsaturated, saturated, and trans. Basically, there is good news, and
there is bad news when it comes to fat.
To get the bad news over with, trans fats are the worst and they have a recommended
daily intake of a whopping zero grams per day. Trans fats are commonly used to preserve fast
foods. They are synthesized chemically and are not able to be absorbed properly by the
digestive system, so they end up being stored as harmful fat. Consuming a diet rich in trans fat
will raise LDL levels and lower HDL levels.
The healthy fats that raise HDL levels and lower LDL levels are called unsaturated fats.
These fats come from a variety of food sources such as avocados, oils, nuts, seeds, and fish.
Some of these fats are named as essential because they are necessary for basic body functions, but the body does not make them on its own. Therefore, they must be obtained through dietary intake.
An article from Harvard Health on the different types of fats suggests that cultures
which consume larger amounts of unsaturated fats tend to have better health overall. For
example, the Mediterranean diet is high in fat, but they are one of the most heart-healthy
cultures. This is because they consume a large amount of olive oil.
There is another type of fat that lies somewhere in the middle of good and bad. This
type of fat is saturated. Foods high in saturated fats include red meat, whole-fat dairy products,
and coconut oil. These fats are not a bad as trans fats, but they don’t raise HDL. Too much of
these types of fat can have a tendency to raise LDL which may link to an increase in disease.
There are many more complex aspects to fat, but knowing the difference between
saturated, unsaturated, and trans can help you make better decisions regarding your health.