Good Fats vs Bad Fats
Over the years fats have been given a bad rap. We are lead to believe that fat makes us fat, increases our cholesterol and causes cardiovascular disease. This is not entirely true; there are good fats and bad fats. Fats provide the body with energy, they help absorb our fat soluble vitamins and minerals and are used to build and maintain cell membranes. Most importantly fats are needed for brain and nerve function and play a role in reducing inflammation within the body.
However not all fats are created equally and some should definitely be avoided.
Good fats are relatively unprocessed fats sourced from whole foods. For example: avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines).
Where as bad fats typically come in a package, industrially produced and designed to be non-perishable. For example: trans- fatty acids that appear in processed foods, hydrogenated fats such as margarine and some oils cooking oils.
Damaged fat: When good fats can go bad
A good fat can become bad if it is exposed to excessive heat, light, or oxygen. Some oils (such as flaxseed oil) must be refrigerated and kept in an opaque container. If oil smells or tastes different, it’s most likely rancid and best not to use it. The same applies for nuts, storing them in an airtight container in the fridge will reduce the chance of rancidity.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, are a polyunsaturated fat. They help with:
- Prevent and reduce the symptoms of depression, ADHD, and bipolar disorder
- Protect against memory loss and dementia
- Reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer
- Ease arthritis, joint pain, and inflammatory skin conditions
- Support a healthy pregnancy
- Help you battle fatigue, sharpen your memory, and balance your mood
The different types of omega-3 fatty acids:
EPA and DHA – Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in abundance in cold-water fatty fish and these make up the ingredients in fish oil capsules.
ALA – Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) comes from plants based foods.
Fish: the best source of omega-3s
Salmon (especially wild-caught king and sockeye), Herring, Mackerel, Anchovies and Sardines
Vegetarian sources of omega-3s
Algae such as seaweed (high in EPA and DHA), flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds and soybeans.
Getting more good fats in your diet
The best sources of healthy fats are fish, nuts and seeds. Here are a few ways to easily get more in your diet.
- Dress your own salad. Create your own healthy dressings with extra virgin olive, flaxseed, grape seed, almond and avocado oils.
- Eat more avocados, they are so versatile and easy to prepare. Just mashing one and adding some lemon juice will get you a tasty avocado dip.
- Reach for the nuts. They are a great snack, add they to your salads on top of your breakfast or even use them instead of breadcrumbs on chicken or fish. BUT please make sure they are raw and unsalted.
The Bad Guy – Trans fatty acids
Hydrogenation occurs to these oils (liquid vegetable oil is heated and combined with hydrogen gas) making them more stable and less likely to spoil. They will increase your bad cholesterol and reduce your protective good cholesterol. Trans fatty acids have no health benefits whatsoever. The World Health Organisation recommend no more than 1% is consumed in our daily diet.
You will find trans fatty acids in:
- Commercially-baked goods (cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, breads like hamburger buns)
- Packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips, lollies)
- Solid fats (stick margarine, vegetable shortening)
- Fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, breaded fish, hard taco shells)
- Pre-mixed products (cake mix, pancake, flavoured milk)
- Anything with “partially hydrogenated” oil listed in the ingredients