What’s the Difference Between Good Fat and Bad Fat?

Keep your health in check by sticking with unsaturated fat. And know what to watch out for when the bad fats make appearance.

It’s time to get the skinny on fat, because (get this!) not all fats are bound to increase your waistline or raise cholesterol levels. The truth is, our bodies need fat to help absorb vitamins and minerals, and it also functions as a protective layer around nerves. Fats also play a vital role in hormone regulation, blood clotting, muscle movement and inflammation. But to really reap these fatty benefits in the long run, you need to know the difference between the good fats and the bad.

The good fats

Healthy fats fall into two categories: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Popular monounsaturated fats are olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados (love these avocado recipes!) and some nuts.

On the other hand, polyunsaturated fats are your essential fatty acids: omega-3s and omega-6s. Adding the omegas to your diet may prevent heart disease and stroke, reduce blood pressure, and raise good cholesterol levels (HDL). Omega-3 rich foods are fatty fish like salmon and tuna, nuts and seeds, and fortified foods (cereal, milk, eggs).

Find out more about the top five healthy fats.

The bad fats

Any food that’s slathered in grease or deep-fried will contain trans fats. This type of fat prevents food from going bad, turning oils into solids. There are absolutely no health benefits of trans fats; they clog arteries, which can increase your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and myriad other health issues.

Pro tip: If a nutrition label shows “0 grams” of trans fat, but the ingredient list shows “partially hydrogenated oil,” the food does contain trans fat. The amount is simply less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. So, if you eat more than the serving size, you are over your daily trans fat limit.

The OK fats

Some fats aren’t good or bad for you. Those would be saturated fats, which are found in red meat, milk and cheese. A diet high in saturated fat can increase fat-based blood levels, yet this fat also plays an important role in regulating some hormones and acting as a carrier for vitamin conversion. The key to keeping a healthy balance is to limit your saturated fat intake to be under 10 percent of your total daily calories.

While you strive to eliminate those bad fats from your diet, you can still enjoy the good fats that come from nuts, dairy and other foods—they all work perfectly with the keto diet.

Get your omega-3s with these salmon recipes
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Courtney Anaya
Courtney Anaya is a nutritionist and a certified personal trainer through ACE. She holds a BS in dietetics from James Madison Univeristy, and has an MS in human nutrition and functional medicine through the University of Western States. She has written nutrition content for Muscle & Fitness/Hers, Vitamin Retailer, and Natural Practitioner magazines. Her counseling experience entails sports nutrition, weight management, pre- and postnatal nutrition, and pediatric nutrition.