Good Fats 

How many times have you heard that low-fat diets are the answer to losing weight, to managing your cholesterol and avoiding a wide range of health problems? Too many times, certainly. But what if we told you that not all fat is bad for you? That there are some fats that are not only good for you, they're essential.

Your body makes fat from extra calorie consumption. Some of these fats are called dietary fat - this type of fat is a macronutrient, like protein and carbs that give you energy. Fat is an important part of your health and well-being because without it, your body wouldn't function as well. There are some vitamins in your body that need fat to be able to dissolve and give your body the nutrients that it needs.

However, there's also another, darker side to fat. The problem with some types of fat is that they are associated with cardiovascular disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and even cancer. This makes it imperative to understand the differences between good fats and bad fats and know how to take care of your body.

Good Fats vs. Bad Fats

1. The Good Fats

  • Monounsaturated Fat. Monounsaturated fat is one of the good types of fat, found in loads of food and oils. This type of fat helps improve blood cholesterol levels (this means there's less risk of you suffering from heart disease). It also helps maintain blood sugar levels, which is particularly beneficial for anyone suffering from Type 2 diabetes.
  • Polyunsaturated Fat. Polyunsaturated fat is another good type of fat, found in various plant-based food and oils. This type of fat also helps improve blood cholesterol levels to reduce risk of you suffering from heart disease. Probably the most popular type of polyunsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids, are the best supplements you can have for your heart. This type of fat is found in fatty fish and has been proven to reduce risk of suffering from coronary artery disease, as well as helping lower high blood pressure.

Types of Good Fat

Monounsaturated Fat

Polyunsaturated Fat

Olive/canola/sunflower/sesame/peanut oil

Soybean/corn/safflower oil



All kinds of nuts


2. The Bad Fats

  • Saturated Fat. This type of fat is the kind that usually comes from animal sources. Saturated fat can cause high blood cholesterol levels and increase your chances of suffering from heart disease, as well as Type 2 diabetes.
  • Trans Fat. This is the type of fat that is naturally found in food, especially food from animals. That said, most trans fats are formed when the food is processed, through what is known as partial hydrogenation of unsaturated fats. This process makes food last longer without spoiling. Trans fats can increases your chances of getting high cholesterol and also increases chances of heart disease.

Types of Bad Fat

Saturated Fat

Trans Fat

High fat meats / chicken skin

Candy bars

Whole fat fairy products, butter, cheese

Stick margarine/vegetable shortening

Ice cream

Fried foods

Guidelines for Choosing Healthy Fats

With the abundance of dietary fat around, some of which are good and others bad, it can be hard to choose what to eat and what to avoid. The main thing is to not eliminate fat completely. This is a common mistake that people make, but when trying to cut back on fats, don't eliminate them completely from your diet, just substitute the bad fats with the good ones. For instance, try replacing some of your meat consumption with beans and legumes instead, or use olive oil instead of butter and margarine.

1. Eliminate Trans Fats

Eliminating trans fats from your diet is pretty important for a healthy, well-balanced diet. Check all food labels and avoid anything with trans fats. Most commercially baked goods and fast food will be packed with trans fats. Don't convince yourself that a little is OK. No small amount of trans fats is good for you, as it's one of the biggest contributors to heart disease.

Where do trans fats come from:

What's the first thing you think of when you hear "trans fats"? If you're like most people, an image of margarine probably crossed your mind. It's true most margarines are full of trans fats but surprisingly, they're not the main source?that goes to commercially baked goods, fast food and a lot of snack foods. The following is a list of some of the sources.

  • Cookies/cakes/muffins/pizza dough
  • French fries/fried chicken/donuts
  • Potato/corn/candy/microwave popcorn
  • Margarine/vegetable shortening
  • All types of pre-mixed products (cake, pancake, chocolate drink)

How to watch out for trans fats in food

  • You should be wary of anything you buy at the grocery story that reads "partially hydrogenated oil" in its ingredients. Even products that also claim to be trans fat can still be unhealthy.
  • When picking margarine, choose the brands that are the softest. The softer, the less unhealthy it is. Also make sure that it contains zero grams of trans fat.
  • Eating out can be a major catastrophe as far as trans fats are concerned. Make sure to skip fried food and baked goods unless you're certain that the restaurant eliminates trans fat from them completely.
  • Avoid fast food joints. It always shocks us when some places label the food as cholesterol free, even knowing that it's been fried in vegetable oil.

2. Limit Saturated Fats Intake

  • Try as much as possible to limit how much saturated fats you consume. You can do this by cutting back on red meats and opting for fish, beans and chicken instead and choosing ‘low-fat' dairy products.
  • When you have the option, go for grilling/baking/broiling your food instead of frying.
  • Always remove the skin from the chicken before cooking.
  • Avoid any breaded versions of meats/vegetables and deep fried food.

Below is a list of saturated foods you may be consuming and their healthier counterparts. Whenever possible, try to go with the healthier option.

Food with Saturated Fats

Healthier Choice


Olive oil


Skimmed or 1% milk

Sour cream

Plain yogurt (non-fat of course!)


Egg whites or tofu

Ice cream

Frozen yogurt

3. Eat More Unsaturated Fats

Now that you understand how important it is for you to eliminate saturated and trans fat, it's time for you to find new sources for healthier alternatives.

  • Use olive oil. Instead of using butter/margarine/lard, go for olive oil. If you need it for baking, use vegetable oil or canola. You know what else makes a good snack? Olives. Just plain olives. Try eating a few?they're guaranteed to hold your hunger off till your next meal.
  • Eat avocados. So many people avoid avocados thinking they're loaded with fat. Yes, they are fatty?but they contain all the good types of fat that will leave you feeling full and satisfied without saturated fats. Naturally, you don't want to overindulge, but the same can be said for just about everything?even water!
  • Skip the commercial salad dressings. These are often jam-packed with trans fats, instead make healthy dressings at home using olive or sesame oil.

4. Get Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are great and contrary to popular belief, fish isn't the only source for these. You can also find them in walnuts, canola and soybean oil among others. Below are just some of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Helps prevent/reduce depression.
  • Helps fight against dementia and gradual memory loss.
  • Reduces your chances of suffering from heart disease.
  • Helps during pregnancy.

There are a lot of omega-3 supplements out there and choosing the best supplement for you can be a daunting task. Below is some advice that will hopefully make your job easier.

  • Don't choose any product that doesn't tell you the source of their omega-3s.
  • Don't simply choose fortified foods. While margarine, milk and eggs all contain omega-3s, the amount is pretty tiny.
  • Check how much EPA and DHA are in the supplement. A lot of supplements may show that it contains 1000mg of fish oil, but that doesn't mean it contains 1000mg of omega-3.
  • Make sure the supplement you choose is mercury free and contains both DHA and EPA.

Recommendations for Fat Intake

Since some fats are helpful while others are harmful, it's useful to know which are the good ones and which are the bad ones. First, it's important to understand what cholesterol really is. It's actually essential for your body?you make cholesterol to function properly (it helps build your cells and produce specific hormones). Your body also absorbed some of the cholesterol it needs from dietary cholesterol, such as those found in eggs and meat.

Consuming too much cholesterol in your body can increase your cholesterol level, though not quite as much as saturated fat. High cholesterol levels increase your chances of suffering from heart diseases.

Based on guidelines presented by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, below is a list of the recommended amount of intake of each type of fat.

Type of Fat


Total Fat

The total amount of fat you can consume depends on your daily recommended amount of calories, but it should generally be no more than 20-35% of your total calorie intake. Assuming you are on a 2000 calorie based diet, that translated into about 44-78g of fat every day.

Monounsaturated Fat

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans don't give any specific recommended amount, except eat as much as you can while staying within your allowed total calorie intake.

Polyunsaturated Fat

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans don't give any specific recommended amount, except eat as much as you can while staying within your allowed total calorie intake.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans don't give any specific recommended amount, except eat as much as you can while staying within your allowed total calorie intake.

Saturated Fat

The rule for bad fats is the less you eat the better. As a rule though, you shouldn't consumer more than 10% of your total calorie intake (7% is ideal, especially if you have risk of suffering from heart disease). Assuming you are on a 2000 calorie based diet, that translated into about 15-22g of saturated fat every day.

Trans Fat

Again, the less you eat the better. Try as much as possible to avoid trans fats from processed foods. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that your trans fat intake is no more than 1% of your total calorie intake. Assuming you are on a 2000 calorie based diet, that translated into about 2g of trans fat every day.


The recommended amount is 300mg every day, 200mg if you are at a risk of suffering from heart disease.