The Skinny on Good Fats and Bad Fats: How both will affect your health

25 Jun
Meg is epicurious and has a strong passion for cooking healthy meals on a budget. Her passion for food and nutrition stems from a young age with exposure to cuisine from various cultures. Originally from New York, she moved to Tallahassee, Florida to receive a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics at the Florida State University. Upon graduating, She took one step further to become a nutrition blogger in the dietetics field. She is currently a graduate student studying Clinical Nutrition at the Florida State University with the intent of becoming a Registered Dietitian post-grad. She believes that food has a unique ability to bond people from around the world, to create new relationships, and to cement old friendships. She aims to share her nutrition knowledge with others and to encourage healthy lifestyles through fitness and nutrition.

Meg is epicurious and has a strong passion for cooking healthy meals on a budget. Her passion for food and nutrition stems from a young age with exposure to cuisine from various cultures. Originally from New York, she moved to Tallahassee, Florida to receive a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics at the Florida State University. Upon graduating, She took one step further to become a nutrition blogger in the dietetics field. She is currently a graduate student studying Clinical Nutrition at the Florida State University with the intent of becoming a Registered Dietitian post-grad. She believes that food has a unique ability to bond people from around the world, to create new relationships, and to cement old friendships. She aims to share her nutrition knowledge with others and to encourage healthy lifestyles through fitness and nutrition.

Meg Khan-Karen is a guest blogger for Layman’s Terms Media. Periodically she will post thoughtful articles about leading a healthy lifestyle on a budget. Check out her Facebook page Daily Fit Dish by MegKKFit  for nutritious recipes at a reasonable price. Also follow her on Twitter.

By: Meg Khan-Karen, Nutrition blogger

Diet trends come in waves. One decade we see the rejection of carbohydrates, and we shun animal products the next. Some of you reading this right now may remember the low fat craze of the 90’s–it was then that fat got a bad rep. The reputation has stuck so much that “fat” is now considered an insult.

Well, I’m here to tell you that fat is not bad for you. In fact, it’s necessary for our health and our well-being!

Let’s start with the basics. We often refer to fat molecules as “triglycerides” because a fat molecule consists of a glycerol “backbone” with three fatty acid chains attached. The fatty acid chains that makes up this fat molecule can either be saturated (meaning it is fully surrounded by hydrogen atoms) or it can be unsaturated meaning there are double bonds between the carbons and it is not fully surrounded by hydrogen atoms.

Here’s an example of the structural difference between a saturated fatty acid and an unsaturated fatty acid:

Credit: faculty.clintoncc.suny.edu

Credit: faculty.clintoncc.suny.edu

 Your body needs these fats to function on a daily basis. Not only do we acquire fat in our diet from plant and animal sources but we also make our own. The importance of fat in the body includes different functions including aiding in vitamin A,D, E, and K, the fat soluble vitamins.

Fats also aid in maintaining healthy metabolism, building strong hair, nails and smooth skin and cushioning our organs.  And, of course fats act as a readily available source of energy –whether you’re going for a long run or pushing through your daily routine.

In recent years we have heard more about the difference between “good fats” and “bad fats,” yet many don’t fully understand the distinction between them. So what is the difference between a “good fat” and a “bad fat” and what does that even mean?

“Good fats” include unsaturated fats like monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, both of which have been shown to have a significant positive impact on heart health.  Two important fats we have heard a lot about recently are the essential fatty acids “Omega-3” and “Omega-6”. These are particularly important because our bodies are incapable of producing them so, they must be acquired through the diet. In the Western diet, we currently consume more Omega-6 fatty acids and not enough Omega-3 fatty acids from sources such as cold-water fish like salmon.Unsaturated fats have also been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol, and actually improve heart health.

Yes, that’s right—eating more [good] fats may actually make you healthier! In addition to heart health, ensuring that you add these healthy fats into your diet can lead to significant improvements to your health anywhere from fresh, young looking skin, improved mental health, and maybe even a few less inches on your waistline.

Some sources of good fats include:

  • Vegetable oils like olive oil, canola oil, and rapeseed oil
  • Cold water fish such as wild salmon, sardines, tuna, and even mussels
  • Flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds
  • walnuts and almonds
  • avocado
  • whole eggs

On the contrary, “Bad fats” such as saturated fat and trans fat are more often found in animal food sources and processed foods. These two fats have been shown to increase total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol as well as decrease HDL cholesterol. Because of this, these fats may negatively impact heart health by increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes, which is certainly not in our best interest.  Decreasing your intake of these fats will lead to a healthy heart and maybe even less trips to the doctor.

Because of the saturated fatty acid chain structure, these fats are often solid at room temperature. Here are some saturated fats to limit in your diet:

  • fatty cuts of red meat, such as brisket and higher fat ground beef
  • cream, butter, lard, and shortening, and full fat milk products, cheese
  • processed foods that may contain trans fats and hydrogenated oils (check the labels!)
Credit: Megan Khan Karen

Credit: Megan Khan Karen

Here is my favorite almond butter recipe that is packed with healthy monounsaturated fats and protein:

Meg’s Daily Fit Dish Super Simple Cocoa Almond Butter

2 cups raw almonds

2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1-2 packets Stevia (depending on how sweet you want it, though I only used one)

Fill the bowl of a food processor or blender with the almonds and purée on high. DO NOT ADD ANY LIQUID AS THIS WILL DECREASE THE SHELF LIFE. Periodically push the sides down to ensure even blending. Once the butter becomes creamier, add the cocoa powder and the Stevia (and if you’d like, a dash of salt to bring out the sweetness) Blend until the butter is a smooth consistency and store in an airtight container in your fridge.

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2 Responses to “The Skinny on Good Fats and Bad Fats: How both will affect your health”

  1. Tony August 23, 2013 at 4:31 am #

    Very nice write up. I wish you had spent some time discussing coconut oil. It is a superb healthy fat even though a saturated one. It gets a bad rap even though it is the second highest source of lauric acid which we all need. The best source of lauric acid is mother’s milk.

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  1. Editor’s picks for 2013 | Layman's Terms Media - December 2, 2013

    […] The Skinny on Good Fats and Bad Fats: How both will affect your health: By Megan Khan Karen Diet trends come in waves. One decade we see the rejection of carbohydrates, and we shun animal products the next. Some of you reading this right now may remember the low fat craze of the 90’s–it was then that fat got a bad rep. The reputation has stuck so much that “fat” is now considered an insult.—> Continue reading […]

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