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Fats: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Updated on May 4, 2011

Its a special occasion and you've decided to buy a cake to celebrate. While most might proceed to buy the cake directly; others glance at the nutrition facts and ingredients. There will usually be a standard list of fats, carbohydrates, sodium, protein and vitamin content. In this article we’ll take a look at the different type of fats we can encounter in our food; the healthy ones and the unhealthy ones.

The Good

Monounsaturated Fats

This type of fatty acids is a type of fat containing only one double bond carbon molecule.  They are considered one of the healthiest types of fats because of their molecular stability at higher temperatures. They wont hydrogenate and become all saturated when cooked. (Unsaturated fats contain no hydrogen molecules because they form double bonds. Saturated fats are saturated in hydrogen atoms.) Monounsaturated fats help lower bad LDL cholesterol while higher the good HDL cholesterol.  They can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Examples of monounsaturated fats would be

Olive oil, Peanut oil, Canola oil (not refined), Nuts and seeds

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are fatty acids that contain no double bonds between carbon atoms and therefore are fully saturated in hydrogen atoms. They are tightly packed saturated fatty acids that are shelf stable and resistant to higher temperatures as well as essential to higher bodily functions. It’s also interesting to note that fat-soluble vitamins also occur in saturated fats; vitamin K2, A, D and others. Why is it regarded as an evil fatty acid? Propaganda and business reasons most likely.

If you’re interested on the subject, I suggest you look up what the Inuit’s and Eskimos ate for thousands of years; 100% meat diet.

Healthy examples of saturated fats:

Eggs, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, dark chocolate

The Bad

Polyunsaturated Fats

Similar to monounsaturated fats, these fatty acids contain more than one double bon carbon molecule, but it also means more gaps in the molecular structure. This also means they are more sensitive at lower temperatures. It can also contribute to free radical damage and oxidation. It is also linked to heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.  However, that doesn’t mean these fats are completely bad. If bought organic or cold-pressed, they can be used as salad dressing or other means of adding a bit of flavor.  It’s when you cook this sensitive oil that it becomes bad. But because these oils are cheap, they’ve grown more and more popular for cooking in restaurants and fast food chains.

Examples of polyunsaturated fats (best in small moderation and without cooking.).

Seafood, walnuts, fish oil and essential fatty acids.

The Ugly

Trans Fat

These are unnaturally hydrogenated oils. They are chemically altered oils, subject to high pressure and temperature. Industrial solvents and other chemicals used to promote hydrogenation, followed by deodorizing agents and bleaching. Truly, these fats are the worst kind of fat to enter your body. Not even 0.1% is “ok”. Avoid these fats period. If you cherish your health then you will check the ingredients.

You will also find many refined oils now a days, safflower oil, canola oils, soybean oil, corn oil etc. Many of these vegetables oils have undergone the refined process. Look for “virgin” or “cold expeller pressed” oils, as these will not have undergone the Trans-fat process. These ones haven’t been structurally damaged.

Examples of Trans-fat foods

Fast food, refined foods, deep fried foods, but also check food packages; sometimes the food might seem healthy, but Trans-fat is quite the opposite!


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    • Yuki92 profile image

      Yuki92 7 years ago from Vancouver

      You have to remember that eating fat doesn't make you fat , but eating carbohydrates does. Carbohydrates creates blood-sugar to the point where your pancreas need to send insulin to regulate the amount of blood sugar. This results in your cells absorbing the blood-sugar, creating "fat cells". When you have pop or any high fructose drinks, you're basically drinking yourself fat. Of course this isn't always the primary reason for obesity or 'gained weight'.

      As far as trans fats go, avoid them as much as possible. However, I realize lots of people would have to completely change their diets to avoid them 100%, and if you're willing to make the health step, I'd advise it.

      I'll be the first to say I have my share of trans fats.

      What affects can they have? Well they're chemically hydrogenated fats. So first off, we have something unnatural to begin with; saturated fats can be found in animal; monounsaturated and polyunsaturated as well, are natural fats. Trans fats are chemically produced fats, they're cheap and don't spoil and the food industries like cheap and preserved food. Because trans fats are unnatural fats, our bodies are not used to, it acts as a poison. It kills cellular membranes structures, causes all sorts of cancers, heart diseases, high cholesterol, obesity the works. I think the most important thing to note is its destructiveness towards cells.

      Hope that helps and thanks for your comment!

    • DrumsAcousticMuse profile image

      Jesse Broman 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      wow, saturated fats have been demonized for at least my entire life. i suspected that they weren't that bad for you, but had no idea they could actually be good.

      What will trans-fats actually do to your body?