Choosing Good Fats to Replace Bad Fats in your Diet

What are dietary fats? 

Think all fat is bad for you? This article gives you an idea about dietary fat, including how to choose good fats over bad fats in your diet. 

Fat is a type of nutrient, just like protein and carbohydrates. Your body needs some fat for energy, to absorb vitamins and to protect your heart and brain health. There is a myth that eating fat will cause weight gain, raise cholesterol and lead to a myriad of health problems, however not all fat is the same. In fact, healthy fats play an important role in helping you manage your moods, fight fatigue and control your weight. 

By understanding the difference between good and bad fats and how to include more healthy fat in your diet, you can improve how well you think and feel, boost your energy, and even trim your waistline.

Good Fats vs Bad Fats 

Since fat is an important part of a healthy diet, rather than adopting a low-fat diet, it’s more important to focus on eating more beneficial “good” fats and limiting harmful “bad” fats.

Unhealthy or “Bad” Fats

1. Trans Fat

Small amounts of naturally trans fats can be found in meat and dairy products but it is artificial trans fats that are considered dangerous. This is the worst type of fat since it not only raises bad LDL cholesterol but also lowers good HDL levels. Artificial trans fats can also create inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, and other chronic conditions and contributes to insulin resistance, which increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Primary food sources include:

- Commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, cakes, pizza

- Packaged snack foods (crackers, chips)

- Stick margarine, vegetable shortening

- Fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets)

- Anything containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil

2. Saturated Fat 

While not as harmful as trans fat, saturated fat can raise bad LDL cholesterol and can negatively impact heart health, so it’s best consumed in moderation. While there’s no need to avoid all saturated fat from your diet, it is recommended limiting it to 10% of your daily calories.

Primary food sources include:

- Red meat (beef, lamb, pork)

- Chicken skin, lard 

- Whole-fat dairy products (milk, cream, ice cream, butter)

- Tropical oils (coconut oil, palm oil) 

Healthy or “Good” Fats 

1. Unsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are known as the “good fats” as they are good for your heart, cholesterol, and your overall health. Adding more of these healthy fats to your diet may also help to make you feel more satisfied after a meal, reducing hunger and thus promoting weight loss. 

Monosaturated fat - food sources include: 

Olive oil, canola oil, avocados, tree nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia, hazelnuts, cashews)

Polyunsaturated fat - food sources include: 

Sunflower, sesame, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, walnuts, fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel)

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are type of polyunsaturated fat and are especially beneficial to your health. There are different types of omega-3s: EPA and DHA are found in fish and algae and have the most health benefits, while ALA comes from plants and is a less potent form of omega-3. 

Research has shown that a diet rich in omega-3s may help to prevent and reduce symptoms of depression, protect against memory loss and dementia,  reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer, reduce inflammation, joint pain and balance your mood. 

Best Food Sources of Omega-3s 

Fish sources: Salmon, Mackerel, Trout, Herring, Tuna, Sardines, Anchovies

Vegetarian sources: Sacha inchi seeds, Chia seeds, Algae, Flaxseeds, Walnuts, Canola

Tips for Adding More Healthy Fats to your Diet

  • Eat omega-3 fats every day – choose fatty fish and plant sources

  • Cook with olive oil – rather than butter, margarine or lard

  • Take sacha inchi oil – good plant-based source for omega 3-6-9

  • Add chia seed into diet – drinking water, smoothies, salad, pudding 

  • Eat avocados – Snack, cook, bake to add nutritious and healthy fats

  • Be nutty – Munch on a small handful of unsalted nuts and seeds

  • Dress your own salad – create healthy dressings with olive oil

In summary, be smart about the amount and type of fat you choose. Choosing foods rich in healthier unsaturated fat instead of foods high in saturated fat, not in addition to them. It is important to note that a person’s total diet or overall eating pattern is the most important factor for disease prevention. A varied diet is more beneficial to good health than concentrating on individual foods.

Lara, Nutritionist Anna Hoo Clinic