Good Fats & Bad Fats....Everything You Need To Know

Good fat and bad fat

Now THIS is a big subject.

**if you'd rather watch keep is below :)

I'm constantly telling you to eat more fat.  You need it for your hormones, your brain, your skin, to control inflammation...and of course you need it for FAT LOSS! didn't know that yet?  No my free Starter Guide and we'll get you sorted right away:

Ok, now that you're on board let's get back to it.

But Laura, you might be thinking, which kinds of fat?  Which ones should you cook with?  have cold?  Is refined ok or should you be buying cold pressed?  So many fatty questions.  

I'm going to break down the types of fat, what they do and how to use them in this post!

Saturated Fats

Let's start here, because this is the type of fat you're most likely still afraid of.

Well, saturated fat is called saturated because it's chemical structure is completely saturated with hydrogen.  This means that it is a very stable molecule and unreactive to oxygen, which means it doesn't oxidize easily to form inflammatory compounds.  

This property leaves saturated fat solid at room temperature and it also makes it perfect to heat up and cook with.  

Examples of saturated fat include animal fats like tallow and lard and plant based fats like coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter.

Saturated fat is something that you need in your life.  Being afraid of it is so not necessary and it's outdated.  The science just doesn't support it.  And even if you can't get behind this ('cause nutritional science is so darn difficult...and you can cherry pick a handful of studies to come to any conclusion you want), what happened to our society when we replaced saturated fat with vegetable oils?  Why inflammation skyrocketed, our society became obese and Type 2 Diabetes has reached terrifying levels.

Here's what the science does show: saturated fat is cardioPROTECTIVE.  It has been shown over and over again to raise your HDL cholesterol (that's the good one).  It's also been shown to increase the size of LDL particles form small and dense to larger and fluffier (also really good...the small dense kind are the scary ones).  It's actually the overconsumption of carbohydrates that increases the number of small dense LDL particles (those are the bad ones) AND triglycerides (also bad).

In fact saturated fat also does things like: slows the rate of food absorption which keeps you full longer; helps cells destroy bacteria & viruses, supports nerve signalling, helps increase the uptake of calcium into bone, increases Lipoprotein A (improves cardiac risk factors), etc.

So now that we know it's a GOOD fat, make sure you're getting it in your life on the daily.

Monounsaturated Fat

 So monounsaturated fats are probably the fats that you're NOT afraid of.  These fats are liquid at room temperature and have long been heralded for their heart healthy ways.

Monounsaturated means that they have one bond that's not saturated with hydrogen.  This makes them slightly less stable than saturated fats and more likely to react with oxygen creating inflammation.  That being said, they can be heated, you just need to be careful as to what temperature and which form of the oil you are using.

Examples of monounsaturated fats are olive oil, avocado oil and most nut oils.

Unrefined, cold pressed oils maintain the most nutrients.  They are the oils you really want to use cold, as dressing, dips etc.  This is because heating them will destroy some of the heat sensitive nutrients and depending on the temperature they are heated to, cause the oil to oxidize and become inflammatory.  These oils are more expensive because cold extraction is a more difficult and longer process, so save these oils for the raw stuff.

Refined oils are taken through a heat process.  This causes them to lose some of their nutrients, but also to be more stable.  If you're cooking with an oil you're better off choosing the refined version, since heating it would damage the oil anyway, and this way you can safely cook with it to a higher temperature.  These oils tend to be cheaper, since  refining is easier than cold extraction.  Have these on hand for cooking.

Polyunsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats are broken down into two categories: Omega 3 & Omega 6.

These are called essential fats, because we need them and our body can't actually make them.

Omega fats are really tricky, because quantity & quality really matter.  Now first of all, the term polyunsaturated means that they are MANY bonds not saturated with hydrogen.  This means that these oils are VERY reactive and likely to become oxidized with very little heat. 

This means that these oils should always be used cold only.  Absolutely no cooking, because as soon as you heat them (even a little) they become oxidized and incredibly inflammatory.  Even storage of these oils should be in a dark container and in your fridge.  It's important to make sure that they are cold extracted with no heat refining also.

So now that we know how to use them (cold ONLY in dressings, dips, sauces etc), you need to know a little more about what they do.

Omega's are responsible for mediating the inflammatory processes within your body.  Acute inflammation is actually a good thing, believe it or not.  It's a response to an injury or infection that brings nutrients and immune cells to an area to heal.  Once that area is healed, the inflammation goes away.  Where inflammation becomes a NOT good thing is when the process is turned on, but not off again.  This is called chronic inflammation.

Now Omega 3's are responsible for turning OFF the inflammatory response.  Omega 6's are responsible for turning it on.

We evolved eating an equal amount of both 3's & 6's so inflammation was managed well.  The problem now, is that we eat far more Omega 6's than 3's (we've gone from a 1:1 ratio to a 8:1 ratio or even a 16:1 ratio in favour of Omega 6's).  This creates issues with chronic inflammation. 

So which is which?

Omega 3's

Omega 3's are contained in hemp hearts, flaxseed, chia seeds, black walnut oil, fatty fish like salmon,  pumpkinseeds, macadamia nuts and grain fed meat.  All in all not the foods we tend to eat everyday.

Use these oils cold, buy cold pressed versions and store them in the fridge in a dark bottle and all will be well.

Omega 6's

Omega 6's are contained in sesame oil, grapeseed oil and vegetable oils like corn oil, safflower oil, soy, sunflower oil and cottonseed oil.  As you can see, these are the oils that are found in processed food like salad dressings, potato chips, pizza, commercially prepared meats like sausages and packaged foods like crackers, popcorn, etc. 

Now....don't get me wrong.  Omega 6's are important, necessary and have many important functions.  That's why they are essential.  The only problem comes with heating them and having them in excess of Omega 3's.  Most processed foods containing Omega 6's use cheap oils that have been heated and refined.  This means that they are SUPER inflammatory and not something you want to ingest.  Leave anything on a store shelf that uses vegetable oil well enough alone if you're trying to cut down on inflammation and stick to the healthy fats.  

Trans Fats

So this brings me to the one and only truly 'bad' fat.

Trans fats are basically oils that have undergone a chemical process to make them more shelf stable.  This basically creates an inflammation monster that has been implicated in increasing the risk of coronary heart disease.  They also have the opposite effect on your cholesterol that saturated fats do (they decrease the good cholesterol or HDL and increase the amount of small dense LDL, the really bad ones).  

You can identify trans fats as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in any ingredient list and you can find them in baked goods, cookies, crackers, margarine and commercially fried foods.  

Canada actually proposed in April of this year (2017) a total ban on trans fats in the food industry which will hopefully take place as of one year later (spring of 2018).  That's how damaging they are.

Because trans fats are so dangerous they have to be listed on the nutrition facts panel, but there is a loophole that is VERY important to know about.  In Canada, if there is LESS than .049g per serving, the amount of trans fat can legally be rounded to 0g.  This means that if you're having more than one serving (let's be real here, no one has just one serving of chips or crackers) the amount of trans fat you're consuming increases.  Since no level is safe, this is something really important to watch out for.  Reading ingredients is important here, because if you see the words hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated there is trans fat present.  Stay far away.

Wrap Up

So that's it.  In a nutshell here's what you need to know:

  1. Saturated fat is good. Eat it daily and choose this fat for most heating and cooking.

  2. Monounsaturated fat is also good and heart healthy. You can heat it safely up to a certain point. Refined oils can be heated to a higher point than cold pressed. Cold pressed should be reserved for dressings, dips, etc. This way you preserve all of the nutrients and justify paying more.

  3. Polyunsaturated fats are very volatile and should never be heated. Use Omega 3 & Omega 6 oils cold.

  4. Don't buy packaged products that contain polyunsaturated fats (AKA vegetable oils). They've most likely been heat refined and are crazy inflammatory. if you're buying popcorn or ships as a treat buy the ones made with coconut oil, olive oil or avocado oil. This way you'll avoid the gross inflammatory oxidized oil.

  5. Polyunsaturated fats are essential, meaning you need them from your food. They also regulate the inflammation process and need to be consumed in a 1:1 ratio.

  6. Trans fats are the only 'bad' fats. Avoid them at all costs and learn to recognize them in ingredient lists.

That's it!  Hope that was helpful!  Do you still have fatty questions?  Ask them on my upcoming free webinar where we talk about how to eat for fat loss.  Talking fat definitely happens (since it's my favourite subject and all).  Register below.

Xx Laura