All our lives, fat has been villainized. Until recently, with ketosis becoming widespread knowledge, most people believed that a healthy diet involved as little fat as possible. Nowadays, it’s all about having the right kind – better known as healthy fats – in every meal.

As for the kinds of fat, there are trans fat, saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat – which ones are considered healthy fats? Which foods contain them? First, let’s zero in on the main thing – fats.

What are fats?

Like everything else, fats are made up of atoms. Specifically, a carbon atom chain that’s bonded to hydrogen atoms. The types of fats differ mainly on how many hydrogen atoms are bonded to their carbon atom chain. Seems trivial, right? But those tiny differences have a whole lot of impact on human health.

So which ones should we consume and which ones should we stay away from? Let’s look at each type closely.

Trans Fat

You may wonder why packaged food proudly declare “0 Trans Fat” on their packages but aren’t “fat-free”. Well, trans fat is actually the worst kind of fat. It’s a result of food processing where liquid fats are turned solid to lengthen their shelf life through hydrogenation.

Consuming trans fat leads to higher LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and lower HDL (the good kind). It also causes inflammation, which is the catalyst for serious illnesses like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, etc. Because of this, trans fat has been banned in the USA for years.

Saturated Fat

Saturated Fat | Healthy Fats | 21 Day Full Body Cleanse

Solid at room temperature – that’s how you know something contains saturated fat. The name refers to how this type’s carbon chain is full to the brim with hydrogen atoms – it’s saturated! Dairy contains saturated fat. Milk, cheese, and red meat like bacon (think of bacon you left out and the grease has cooled solid) are all prime examples of this type.

Saturated fat has kind of a grayish reputation. The archaic view of “all fats are bad” would suggest against consuming too much saturated fat because it’s supposedly linked to developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease (CHD). There are actually studies that suggest replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates rich in fiber to avoid this. However, a recent analysis of studies disproves this link.

Olive Oil | Healthy Fats | 21 Day Full Body CleanseMonounsaturated Fat

As the name suggests, this kind of fat has only one hydrogen atom bonded to its carbon chain. This kind appears liquid at room temperature. The popular Mediterranean Diet is actually built on monounsaturated fat, that is, olive oil, because it’s said to bring down the risk of developing heart disease. Other foods that contain this type of fat are peanut and canola oil, avocados, and nuts.

Polyunsaturated Fat

Another member of the “healthy fats” association, this one is also liquid at room temperature. Polyunsaturated fat has more hydrogen bonds but not full to the brim. This is actually biologically essential for our body. Cell membranes need this fat to be built. It’s also used to construct nerve coverings, for blood clotting, and muscle movement. Studies show that this kind of fat lowers triglyceride, which can cause a stroke at high levels in the bloodstream.

As important as it is, our bodies can’t produce polyunsaturated fat. That’s why we need to eat food rich in them. These include omega-3 found in fatty fish like sardines, salmon, and mackerel. Seeds and nuts such as flaxseed and walnut are also good sources. Omega-6 rich foods belong here as well, which are mostly vegetable oils like sunflower, soybean, canola, and safflower.

The Truth About Healthy Fats

Having read the types of fats and their differences, most would automatically go for the unsaturated pair since they have stronger studies backing up their “healthy fats” claim. However, here’s a little-known fact: foods with fat contain ALL three kinds of natural fats.

You read that right. Besides trans fat, your salmon, avocado, or olive oil contains ALL three – saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat. These foods are classified under one type simply because they have more of that particular type, but still contain some amount of the other two.

So does that mean cooking with EVOO would still constitute as eating saturated fat? Will eating grilled salmon everyday lead to a heart attack because it still has saturated fat in it?

The answer is: NO.

According to this study, eating a diet high in saturated fat (that is, fat from meat and dairy) does not equate to more likelihood of dying from heart-related diseases. More specifically, higher cholesterol levels, which is associated with eating saturated fats, does not result in death by CHD.

On the contrary, the study found that the top 7 European countries that consumed the MOST saturated fats had three times LESS CHD deaths than the 7 who consumed the least saturated fats. This goes to show that following a diet rich in fat (besides trans fat) is not bad for you.

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