Dietary fats are as important as vitamins, iron, calcium, and other nutrients that your body requires from your diet. There are good fats and bad fats. The type and amount of fat you consume has an impact on the cholesterol levels in your body.
Fats can be divided into three categories. These include the following:1
- Unsaturated fats
- Saturated fats
- Trans fats
Let’s examine these categories and the foods that contain them.
Types Of Dietary Fats
1. Unsaturated Fats
Unsaturated fats are present in the liquid state at room temperature. These fats are considered good for the body as they reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels.
Unsaturated fats are further divided into two types: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats: These fats can help reduce the bad cholesterol levels in your blood which can, in turn, reduce the risk of heart diseases and strokes. They also provide nutrients that help maintain and develop body cells. These fats contain 9 calories per gram.
Foods rich in monounsaturated fats include plant-based liquid oils. These include the following:
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Peanut oil
- Safflower oil
- Sesame oil
Other sources include avocados, peanut butter, and many nuts and seeds.
Polyunsaturated fats: These fats have similar benefits as monounsaturated fats provide to the body. These fats also benefit the body by providing it with essential fatty acids like omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. These fats also contain 9 calories per gram.
Foods rich in polyunsaturated fats include plant oils like the following:
- Soybean oil
- Corn oil
- Sunflower oil
Other sources include nuts like walnuts and seeds like sunflower seeds, tofu, and soybeans.
2. Saturated Fats
These fats are generally present in the solid state at room temperature. They increase the bad cholesterol levels in your blood, increasing the risk of heart diseases. Most saturated fats are found in animal products.
Common sources of saturated fats include the following:
- Meat such as fatty cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and chicken (especially chicken skin)
- Processed meat like salami, sausages, and burgers
- Some plant-based products like coconut, coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut milk and cream, and cooking margarine
Many manufactured and packaged foods also include saturated fats. These include the following:
- Fatty snacks like potato chips and savory crackers
- Deep-fried and high-fat take away foods like hot chips and pizza
- Cakes and high-fat muffins
- Pastries and pies, including quiche, tarts, sausage rolls, and croissants
- Sweet and savory biscuits
3. Trans Fats
Trans fatty acids, more commonly known as trans fats, can be of two types: naturally-occurring and artificial trans fats. Naturally-occurring trans fats are produced in the gut of some animals and the products made from these animals may contain these fats. Artificial trans fat is created in industries by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them solid.
Trans fats raise your bad cholesterol levels and lower your good cholesterol levels, causing you to be at a higher risk of developing heart diseases. They are also associated with the development of type 2 diabetes.
Trans fats can be found in the following:
- Products that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO/PHVO)
- Shortening like margarine
- Deep-fried foods
- Commercially baked products
Now that you know the different types of fat, let’s examine how much fat of each type you should consume.
Recommended Intake Of Fat
Fats give more energy than carbohydrates and proteins. The latter contain 4 calories per gram whereas fats contain 9 calories per gram. Consuming fat, irrespective of the source, can lead to weight gain and obesity. Therefore, it is always better to eat fat-rich foods in moderation. Experts recommend replacing saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
- Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats: The American Heart Association suggests that 8–10 percent of daily calories should come from polyunsaturated fats.Studies also show how replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats can reduce coronary heart diseases.2
- Saturated fats: The American Heart Association suggests that your calories from saturated fats should only be 5–6 percent of the total intake. For instance, if your calorie intake is 2000, not more than 120 should come from saturated fats. This will be about 13 grams of saturated fats per day.3
- Trans fats: The American Heart Association recommends cutting down the trans fat consumption and replacing it with healthier fats like polyunsaturated fats.
Therefore, eating the right type and the right amount of fat is important for leading a healthy life. Reading the product labels while shopping and replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats can help in the healthy intake of fat.
|↑1||Types of Fat. Harvard School of Public Health.|
|↑2||Mozaffarian, Dariush, Renata Micha, and Sarah Wallace. “Effects on coronary heart disease of increasing polyunsaturated fat in place of saturated fat: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” PLoS Med 7, no. 3 (2010): e1000252.|
|↑3||Saturated Fats. American Heart Association.|