Healthy Eating: Good And Bad Fats



We should all be eating more olive oil or other foods and oils higher in monosaturated fat.

Does the type of fat you eat matter? You bet!


Can you lose weight based on the type of fat you eat? There’s some evidence to suggest certain fats like the monounsaturated fat in olive oil have metabolism boosting properties. That means they can help help us in our battle to lose weight—at least indirectly. However, like most dieting-related issues, losing weight for the long run really comes down to making better lifestyle choices in everything we do. This includes eating a well-balanced diet, getting better sleep, increasing physical activity, managing stress, addressing health concerns and so on. Today’s “Real Help With Weight Loss” topic focuses on another critical component when it comes to selecting the best foods: Eating the healthiest dietary fats.


Why should we care about the type of fat we eat? To answer the question, start by looking at the following formula:


Calories consumed
+ a given level of physical activity and body type
= weight gain or weight loss.


To be on the weight loss side of this equation we need to watch our total caloric intake and stay active.


Some foods are better to avoid, like those high in saturated fat.

Does your diet have too much fat? Some meats like beef and especially sausage are loaded down with saturated fat.

It’s important to understand that dietary fats can be either good or bad. Though they all contain the same number of calories per gram some appear to have heart damaging properties and others heart nurturing properties. Specifically, certain fats may affect cholesterol and help raise or lower our LDL (higher LDL is generally considered bad) and they may help raise or lower our HDL (higher HDL is generally considered good). Thus, the best dietary fats are those that may lower LDL and raise HDL, and the worst ones are those that do the opposite.


Is coconut oil good for you?

All oils are different. Though coconut oil is high in saturated fat, it has many other health benefits and does not contribute to high cholesterol. For more information on coconut oil’s health benefits click on the image.

Beyond the issue of cholesterol, bad fats like trans-fats and saturated fats may also contribute to higher levels of triglycerides (higher levels are bad). For more information on triglycerides see Mayo Clinic:  Triglycerides: Why do they matter?


Putting it all together we can now say the following:


• Every person is limited to a certain number of calories each day if they plan to maintain or lose weight.

• Eating too much fat means eating too many calories. This implies if we stick to a recommended overall calorie limit we won’t get the right proportion of other foods we need like protein, fiber, carbohydrates and so on.

• Eating the wrong types of fat may pose certain heart health risks.

• Eating the right types of fat is considered the best way to stay heart healthy.


To get a better picture of what makes a good or bad fat see the chart below.


Why type of fat do you consume?

Click to expand the chart. Use your browser button to come back.


We now know bad fat (i.e. most any trans-fat or too much saturated fat) helps clog arteries, increases cholesterol and may contribute to higher blood sugar. Yet a certain amount of fat in the diet is necessary to supply essential energy, to help regulate body chemistry and to help manage metabolic and cellular function. That means we need at least some fat to help lose weight! What’s important to take away is not that all fat is bad, but that eating good fat is essential if we want to improve long-term health.


Some vitamin pills contain fat to help the body absorb nutrients.

Did you know fat helps the body absorb certain vitamins? It does!

What’s most important when it comes to eating dietary fat? Here are 8 tips for eating and selecting the dietary fat you need as part of a healthy, balanced diet.


What kind of oil do you use for cooking? Maybe you should consider Olive Oil.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is high in mono-unsaturated fat. That’s good! And did you know light and heat ultimately break down oil. Store your oil in a cool, dark place.

(1) For everyday cooking, use liquid plant oils that are high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats. These include olive oil, canola oil, and peanut oil. For an excellent guide which shows various oils, their properties, etc., see this one from ClevelandAndClinicHealth.Org


(2) Eliminate trans-fats and partially hydrogenated oils from your diet. Eliminating trans-fats is a little easier than it used to be now that many manufacturers and restaurants have begun to see the light and cut these fats (there’s still a ways to go). To be sure to avoid trans-fats skip deep fried foods like French fries, onion rings, chicken wings, etc. while dining out and check labels for all the food you consume at home.



(3) Read food labels to see what fats are included in a food product. The FDA allows manufacturers to include up to half a gram of trans-fat per serving and still label it trans-fat free. To be certain you eliminate trans-fats look at the list of ingredients for “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “vegetable shortening”. These are types of trans-fats so if they’re on the label select another product. Other than trans-fats, also look at food labels for overall fat content and sugar content. Less is better in both cases.


Butter is loaded with saturated fat.

You can replace butter with olive oil in most recipes. For a mild taste use “Extra Light”, though “Extra Virgin” is considered best for you.

(4) Eliminate or severally restrict butter and stick margarine and replace them with olive oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is best on salads, rolls, etc., though light versions are good for stir frying and even baking when taste is a consideration. If you do end up using stick margarine look for one made from olive oil or canola oil and make sure it doesn’t contain partially hydrogenated oils (i.e. trans-fats).


We should all be eating more nuts.

Though high in fat, nuts have healthier mono or polyunsaturated fats. The best nuts? Walnuts, Almonds and Cashews.

(5) Eat at least some good fats high in omega-3’s each day. You can get this oil naturally by eating a diet that includes lots of fatty fish (like salmon, tuna, herring and mackerel), nuts (walnuts and almonds are best), seeds, etc. Otherwise, stick to the best oils for all your cooking needs—those highest in omega 3’s.


(6) Reduce your daily intake of meat and dairy products. These foods are high in saturated fats. Limit red-meat consumption (i.e. beef) and replace it with lower-fat meats like chicken or turkey whenever possible. And when consuming dairy products look for low fat (1% or skim) or non-fat versions.


(7) Limit the total amount of fat in your diet. All fats contain 9 calories per gram—about twice the amount found in carbohydrates or protein. If your total caloric intake is higher than the recommended amount for your body type and level of activity you’ll gain weight. If it’s less you should lose weight. This makes it important to (a) limit fats and (b) eat the right fats—those healthiest for your heart. The American Heart Association currently recommends we limit fat consumption as follows:


Consuming the right quantity of fat everyday is important.

Click to expand the chart. Use your browser button to come back.


We need to cut added sugar and bad fats.

Getting a good diet is all about creating balance. When you look at your overall diet be sure it contains lots of fruits and vegetables, good proteins, whole-grains and good fats.

(8) Avoid any diet that says do all or nothing—seek a balance and do more cooking from scratch. The only way to really know what’s in food is to make it yourself. Far too much of our packaged and processed food contains too much fat and sugars. Just because it’s supposedly a “good fat”, don’t assume that getting it out of a package or processed food is as good as getting it naturally from foods containing the same fat. Dr. Dwight Lundell, a heart surgeon who performed over 5000 open heart surgeries, argues the average diet contains too much Omega 6 fats like those found in soybean oil, sunflower oil and corn oil and this may contribute to inflammation in the arteries. Further he argues inflammation is the main cause for heart disease—more so than high cholesterol. (Source: SignOfTheTimes.Net)


With some seemingly conflicting science and opinion, what should you do when you go to select the food you eat? The best bet is to cook everything from scratch so you know what’s in it, and then eat in moderation to get all the nutrition you need. And when it comes to dietary fats, do what you can to make them a balanced part of your overall diet. That means try eliminating trans-fats, avoid eating too much saturated fat, and when you do go to select fats favor unsaturated fat high in omega-3’s.


In our next post in our weight loss series, we’ll try to cut through some of the hype and myths of dieting. Stay tuned.


Additional references:
Mayo Clinic: Fat Grams: How To Track Your Dietary Fat
American Heart Association: Frequently Asked Questions About Fats American Heart Association
Health Benefits Of Olive Oil:  Olive Oil And Weight Loss
National Institute Of Health: National Cholesterol Education Program

3 Responses to Healthy Eating: Good And Bad Fats

  • connie says:

    Bob, the book I have been reading that I will be recommending to all my friends very soon is “Primal Mind, Primal Body” by Nora T. Gedgaudas .

    Much of the information she presents in that book deals with this very topic.

  • connie says:

    also, canola oil is no longer considered all that safe because of the fact that all canola oil (from the rape plant) is from genetically modified plants UNLESS it is certified organic, and even then there are more and more instances of cross-contamination between conventional fields and organic fields.

  • bobalot says:

    Thanks Connie. Good add. I use olive oil myself–have now for years. I like the fact it’s been part of the human diet going way back in history.


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