An everyday healthy diet should include some forms of fats, preferably the “good” ones, as they can be beneficial to your heart health. There are many different kinds of fats found in foods and it can sometimes be confusing, so let’s look at them and figure out which ones you can keep in your diet, and which of those we should eliminate.
There are 2 main types of fats: unsaturated fats (good fats) and saturated fats (bad fats). It is recommended by many health organisations worldwide that for a healthy or low fat diet you should include foods that contain good fats.
Unsaturated fats are “good” fats as they can help to improve blood cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation and maintain a healthy heart. Unsaturated fats are predominately found in plant foods like; vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and fish. There are 2 types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated fats which help to lower LDL (low density cholesterol, the bad cholesterol), and raise HDL (high density cholesterol, the good cholesterol). Foods such as olive oil, canola oil, avocados, some nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, pecans), and sesame and pumpkin seeds are all high in monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are great to help prevent heart disease, lower blood pressure and aid in brain development. Great food sources include flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, soya beans, walnuts, and oily fish. Both types of unsaturated fats should be included in your diet, preferably instead of saturated fats.
Saturated fats are the “bad” fats and having too much of this in your diet will cause your body to increase its total cholesterol levels by increasing your LDL levels, thereby increasing your risk of heart disease. An important point to remember is that the mix of saturated and unsaturated fats in your diet, not the amount of cholesterol you eat from food, is what has a greater influence of your total cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products like meats and chicken with skin, and full cream dairy products (milk, cheese and ice-cream). There are a few plant-based products which are high in saturated fats, namely coconut oil and palm oil. These types of food should be limited in your diet and always try to opt for a low fat option.
The best piece of advice in reference to fats is to try to limit the amount of saturated fats (from red meats and full cream dairy products), and replace them with unsaturated fats. This way your body will receive the important fats it needs to function efficiently.