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Fat Facts - The Good and the Bad

Updated on February 25, 2017

We all have heard it over and over again; lose weight by losing fat. Besides the increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes what is the big deal about fat? Why all the focus on this substance in the body? Fat is usually associated with the bad only. However, like many things fat has good and bad characteristics.

Saturated verses Unsaturated

Basically, there are two types of fats saturated(the Bad) and unsaturated(the good); at room temperature saturated fats are solid, while unsaturated fats are liquid. What this means on a molecular level is as follows. Saturated fats are like flat pieces of paper stacked on a table top. The paper will remain in contact or attract each other. Unsaturated fat molecules are curved and repel each other. Therefore, when flowing in blood stream unsaturated fats don't stick together greatly reducing the chance of cholesterol build up.

Unsaturated fats are divided into the following categories:

Monounsaturated Fats - reduce cholesterol and LDL(the bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL(the good cholesterol). Moreover, this type of fat is believed to help with weight loss. You can find this type of fat in seeds, nuts, and whole grains. Monounsaturated fats are also found in canola, olive, and sunflower oils.
Polyunsaturated Fats - also help reduce cholesterol and LDL(the bad cholesterol). This type fat is found in seafood, soy, fish and sunflower oils. Omega 3 fatty acids are classified as polyunsaturated fats

Saturated fats are divided into the following categories:

Saturated Fats - raise total cholesterol levels and LDL's. This fat is found in meat, dairy products, and eggs. Saturated fats are also found in coconut and palm oil. Trans Fats - are are a man made creation; they are created by exposing unsaturated oil to high pressure hydrogen. Therefore, unsaturated oil is turned into saturated fat. This process is called hydrogenation. Although hydrogenated fats are cheaper and have a longer shelf over naturally saturated fats, they are perhaps the most unhealthy to consume. Hydrogenated fats and partially hydrogenated fats are often found in many processed foods such as cookies, peanut butter and crackers. In the food industry(restaurants and fast food places), hydrogenated fats are often used in place of regular oils for frying. Because they can be used for longer periods of time without becoming rancid, restaurants have found another way to save money. Please don't be fooled hydrogenated oils are saturated fats and will behave like it in the human body. Some snack makers of cookies, crackers or cakes made with hydrogenated fats may claim their products to be cholesterol-free; before you believe what is written in bold words, take a look at the small print on the nutrition content label. Often, the product in question will be filled with heart-clogging saturated fat.

Until a few years ago, and in reference to hydrogenated fats, there was a problem with nutrition labels. Hydrogenated fats have a certain kind of fat that is not included in categories of saturated or unsaturated. They are called trans fatty acids, or trans fats for short. A lot of studies have shown that trans fats increase cholesterol levels, but as late as 1999 laws regulating food labels in the United States didn't require food makers to include trans fats related information on nutrition labels. For example, a processed snack food may claim it is low in saturated fats may still have a lot of trans fats, but you wouldn't know it looking at the nutrition label. However, in January 2006 the Food and Drug administration began requiring food makers to list trans fats on their nutrition labels.


Moving along, What are some of the benefits of unsaturated fats? What are the problems associated with unhealthy fats or too much fat intake?

Healthy Fat Benefits

  • Energy - Having nine calories per gram verses carbohydrates and proteins having only four calories per gram fat is one of the most efficient sources of food energy
  • Healthy Cells - Fat makes up part of the membrane that surrounds cells. Without a healthy membrane, the cell couldn't function
  • Healthy Brain Structure - In addition to the cell membrane, fat makes up the insulation that surrounds nerve fibers helping them to carry messages faster
  • Fat Soluble Vitamins - Fat helps in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Fat and Hormones - One of the most important structural components of hormones is fat. These hormones are used in regulation of many body functions.
  • Fat and Healthy Skin - Good Fats are used to build healthy skin and the layer under the skin called the subcutaneous fat; this sub layer helps to regulate the body's temperature.
  • Protection of Organs - Many of the human body's vital organs are cushioned and held in place by fat. This includes the kidneys, heart and intestines.


Saturated Fat Problems

  • High Cholesterol - The human body uses cholesterol to produce various hormones and bile acids to digest fats. It requires a small quantity of cholesterol in blood to make this possible. If there is too much cholesterol in the blood, it will lead to excess deposits in arteries and heart. When this happens it can cause symptoms of heart disease.
  • Weight Gain - A balanced menu of healthy foods helps us to be healthy and strong. If we overeat the excess food is stored as fat in the body. If this continues on a regular basis, you may become obese.


Understanding Food Labels

As simple as it may sound one effective way of controlling intake of saturated fats is to familiarize your self with food labels. Although it is not foolproof understanding labels will at least give you an idea what the nutritional food content is.

Healthy Foods To Eat or Drink

The benefits of raw foods are often overlooked. Often when foods are cooked, many of the healthy nutrients are destroyed. If you like raw snacks, this is the best way to get the most health benefits. A short list of healthy raw foods is as follows:

  • Raw Avocados - An excellent for lowering bad cholesterol and raising good cholesterol
  • Raw Seeds - Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds
  • Raw Nuts - Pecans, Peanuts, Walnuts and Brazil nuts
  • Olives - Olives is where olive oil comes from

Suggestions for eating less fats in your daily food intake:

  • Drink skim milk instead of whole milk
  • Try to eat more vegetables and fish and less animal fats
  • Try to use olive or canola oil in our cooking instead of vegetable shortening
  • Trim the the fat off the animal products and remove the skin

Drinks to reduce fat (fresh squeeze or read label carefully if purchasing from store)

  • Apple cider, Grapefruit juice, and Green Tea

A few Foods good to eat on daily basis:

  • Oatmeal, Beans , Eggs, Apples, Fruits, Fish and vegetables

Dietary Supplements to reduce cholesterol :

  • Garlic - Although some studies show minor improvement taking a garlic supplement can help lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Olive leaf extract - has shown some promise in reducing triglycerides too
  • Fish Oil - Capsules with omega-3 fatty acids are a proven way to reduce bad cholesterol

Foods to avoid

Most processed foods contain some trans fats. below is a list of food known to have high amounts of trans fats:

  • cookies, crackers,snack cakes, french fries, pot pies, fried burgers, muffins
  • corn chips, potato chips, candy bars,  fast food shakes, fried chicken
  • donuts, some peanut butters, margarine, biscuits

Conclusion

With healthy eating habits, it is possible to control cholesterol with diet and exercise. Eating excessive amounts of good fats can be as bad as eating lots of bad fats. If you the reader are unsure of your cholesterol levels a visit to your personal physician may be needed. All fats good or bad have some saturated fat; the difference between good and bad is the amount of bad fats the different groups have. Try to eat in moderation. The human body makes all the saturated fat it needs; additional consumption is not needed. So ask yourself do you want the smooth blood flow of unsaturated fats or the heart clogging characteristics of saturated fats?


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    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Very well written and informative hub! What with all the hoopla about hydrogenated fats, I worry that they may eventually take it off the market and I use Crisco in a soap recipe - one healthy use for hydrogenated fat!

    • Coolmon2009 profile image
      Author

      Coolmon2009 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      Dolores Monet - Thank you for your feedback. I will have to reread your soap recipe hubs

    • profile image

      Scott 7 years ago

      Too many web sites are promoting coconut oil, palm oil and soy bean oil. All of these oils will eventually harm you. I only use olive and grape seed oil. I do not use saturated oils, butters, margarines, Trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils), any processed soy product, and vegetable oils like cotton seed, corn, and canola. Three years ago I switched to olive and grape seed oil. It has made such a change to my body, it lowered my total cholesterol over 100 points and I do not eat oat meal or take meds. My blood pressure is now 60 over 105 it was 90 over 135. I now have a pulse of 58. I am over 40 years old. My doctor is baffled how I achieved this with out meds. I mostly eat egg whites, chicken, turkey, lean pork, some fish - not too much because of mercury, vegetables, fruits, rice, home made bread, and my favorite chocolate peanut butter muffins only sweetened with applesauce! I avoid eating out, you cannot control what's in that food. I do not eat deli meats, hot dogs, and bacon, all have high sodium and nitrates that can cause colon and prostate cancers. I do not eat soy products because they cause hormone issues and inflammation of arteries around the heart. I also do not drink tap water because it contains chlorine and high amounts of iron which can be harmful if you have hemochromotosis - genetic disorder that goes undetected by most doctors in the U.S. that makes the body store too much iron and will eventually kill you by the time your in your 50’s and is usually misdiagnosed as either a heart attach or liver cancer

    • Coolmon2009 profile image
      Author

      Coolmon2009 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Scott - You sound like a man who knows how to take care of himself. I admire your dedication to your health. The older I get the more I come to realize the medical establishment only wants to manage your condition not cute it. Often the medications given seem to cause more problems than they help. So it is really up to us to care for ourselves. Thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      Scott 7 years ago

      I am not a doctor. The paragraph I wrote is from personal experience and is not

      intended to treat or diagnose any medical problems.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image
      Author

      Coolmon2009 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Scott - I could tell by the reference to your personal physician you weren't a doctor. Thanks again for the comments you posted earlier

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Great info! I'm taking krill oil and flax seed oil and trying to cut down on meat.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image
      Author

      Coolmon2009 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @habee - Good to hear what you are taking. Both flaxseed and krill oil are good selections

    • Lita C. Malicdem profile image

      Lita C. Malicdem 7 years ago from Philippines

      Managing my diabetes includes a close monitoring of my cholesterol level, too. This is a very informative hub. I use Canola but use it in moderation. Moderation in everything ensures good health.Thanks for sharing this.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image
      Author

      Coolmon2009 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Lita C. Malicdem - My boyfriend monitors his cholesterol closely too. His favorite is olive oil and he likes to use Canola in all his cooking thank you for your support

    • Truth From Truth profile image

      Truth From Truth 7 years ago from Michigan

      Great tips, I could certainly eat healthier myself. Your information was well explained, and everyone should keep track of their cholesterol level. Thanks.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image
      Author

      Coolmon2009 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Truth From Truth - Thank you for stopping by; I am glad my article is useful to you and yours

    • GlstngRosePetals profile image

      GlstngRosePetals 7 years ago from Wouldn't You Like To Know

      WOW Who would think certain foods you eat can be so unhealthy for you.. I'm definetly taking some of your advice and changing my diet since high cholestrol runs in my family.. Thankyou

    • Coolmon2009 profile image
      Author

      Coolmon2009 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @GlstngRosePetals - Yes it is surprising the junk that is in food now a days; Thanks for your comments

    • Leighandrew profile image

      Leighandrew 7 years ago from USA

      Personally when cooking I'll use a combo of both olive oil and canola oil, the canola oil allows you to cook at a high heat with out burning & the combo of the 2 oils is hopefully heart healthy !

    • Coolmon2009 profile image
      Author

      Coolmon2009 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Leighandrew - Interesting information thanks for sharing

    • Dr irum profile image

      Dr irum 6 years ago

      Great tips ,i enjoyed this reading .

    • Coolmon2009 profile image
      Author

      Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Dr Irum - I am glad you enjoyed this article, and thank you for your feedback :)

    • profile image

      Phenocal 6 years ago

      Hello,

      I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post

      Thank You

    • Coolmon2009 profile image
      Author

      Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Phenocal - Thanks for your kind words, hope you will enjoy future articles as well.

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 6 years ago

      A good break down of the fats - we forget that we do do need some in a balanced diet.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image
      Author

      Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      @billyaustindillon - Knowledge is power when it comes to taking care of yourself. Thanks for stopping by :)

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

      Fantastic information, I stick to plant based fats. Your fat facts the good and the bad is vital information for people to know as good fats are vital to good health and bad should be avoided at all cost. thanks and peace :)

    • Coolmon2009 profile image
      Author

      Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      @katiem2 - I know what you mean plant based are better than animal fats. I hope more people learn about the good and bad fats. Thanks for your comments :)

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 6 years ago

      Awesomely useful Coolmon!

    • Coolmon2009 profile image
      Author

      Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Micky Dee - Thanks and It is nice to hear from you. Hope all is well in your world :)

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      We use lots of olive oil in our home for cooking and making salad dressings, etc. Good article!

    • Coolmon2009 profile image
      Author

      Coolmon2009 5 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Peggy W - Sounds like you have good eating habits in your family and it is nice to hear from you again :)

    Additional Infromation

    Mayo Clinic.org - Link to Mayo Clinic Information

    Aetna.com - Useful information on cholesterol and trans fats



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