Do you think eating fat will make you fat? Some types of fat are actually good for you. Find out which!
If you fear eating fat, you’re not alone. Just look around the next time you’re at the grocery store. It will probably be full of “low-fat” and “non-fat” foods that claim to be good for you and to help you lose weight. Be careful with these—most lower-fat food options are loaded with added sugar to make them taste better. Eating a lot of this type of food can damage—and even be dangerous to—your health. (Learn more about the dangers of eating too much sugar here.)
Fat is an essential part of a healthy diet. Essential means that you need it to live. Fat gives your body the nutrients and energy to absorb vitamins, build cells, move your muscles, and protect your nerves. Fat also helps you feel full, so that you don’t go on eating after you’ve had enough.
A diet rich in healthy fats can also guard you from heart disease, improve your cholesterol, and keep your blood sugar healthy. Unhealthy fats, on the other hand, can increase your chances of diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.
So which fats make you healthy and which make you sick? Find out below.
Fats are named after their chemical make-up—more specifically, the number of hydrogen atoms attached to each chain of carbon atoms. The more hydrogen atoms in a fat, the less healthy it is.
Healthy fats are called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These have the fewest hydrogen atoms and are liquid at room temperature. They are also found in nature. Eating this type of fat can lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, and risk of heart disease.
Eat these healthy fats when you’re hungry: olive oil, avocados, nuts, and fish.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature because they have as many hydrogen atoms bonded to their carbon chains as will fit. Saturated fats can be part of a healthy diet when eaten in moderation. Too much can increase cholesterol and create blockages in the arteries, which is one of the main causes of heart attacks.
Eat these foods, but only a little bit: red meat, whole milk, cheese, and butter.
Hydrogenated oils and trans fats are man-made fats that are very dangerous. These fats are created by heating natural fats to force more hydrogen to bond to carbon.
A diet high in hydrogenated or trans fats can lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and a range of other health conditions. In fact, trans fats are considered so dangerous that they are banned from use in many restaurants.
Don’t eat these foods: margarine, fried foods, and anything with the word “hydrogenated” in the ingredients.
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Healthfirst is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Healthfirst group of affiliated companies. The information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.
“Good Fats, Bad Fats,” Diabetes Education Online. Accessed December 18, 2015. http://dtc.ucsf.edu/living-with-diabetes/diet-and-nutrition/understanding-fats-oils/good-fats-bad-fats/
“Good Fats vs. Bad Fats,” HealthiNation. February 16, 2012.
“Fats: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” American Heart Association ©2014. http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@fc/documents/downloadable/ucm_469423.pdf
“The Truth About Fats: The Good, The Bad, and The In-Between,” Harvard Health Publications. February 3, 2015.