Fat Facts: The Good, the Bad, and the Truth

Fat Facts - The Good, the Bad, and the Truth

Have you ever wondered if fat is healthy or unhealthy? If so, then this article is for you! It is true that fats are a very dense source of calories. In fact, there are 9 calories in one gram of fat. For comparison, carbohydrates and proteins have only 4 calories per gram. Regardless, this does not mean that eating fats will make you fat! Let me explain.

In the video below, Amanda Haney breaks down what you need to know about saturated, trans, and unsaturated fats. 

If you don’t like the video or want more information, continue reading.

Good vs bad fat

First off, eating the right amount of calories will help you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Weight gain happens if you eat more calories than you burn. And weight loss happens if you burn more calories than you eat. This is true even if the calories are coming from fat. In fact, fat can be an important part of losing weight because it digests more slowly than carbohydrates and proteins. This helps prevent overeating since longer digestion gives your body that full and satisfied feeling. Also, fat adds wonderful flavor and texture to foods. As a result, fatty foods have that rich and creamy texture so many of us crave.

With this in mind, not all fats are created equal; therefore, it is important to know what type of fats are in your foods so you can consume healthy fats while avoiding the unhealthy fats. In doing so, you’ll enjoy what you eat while staying healthy. In this video, I’ll be discussing what you need to know about the three main types of fat: saturated fat, trans fat, and unsaturated fat.

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Steak is an example of a food high in saturated fatSaturated Fat

Saturated fat gets its name because each carbon in the fat molecule is fully bonded by hydrogen molecules. This is a scientific way to say that saturated fats are rigid in structure because of these full bonds, and they are solid at room temperature.

Saturated fats are found in animal products (such as whole milk, creams, cheeses, butter), high-fat meats (like pork and steak), and vegetable products (like coconut oil and palm kernel oil).

When you consume saturated fats from animal products they can build up in your arteries, increase your cholesterol, and increase your risk for heart disease. Therefore, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6% of your daily calorie intake from saturated fat.

RELATED: Dietary vs Blood Cholesterol: What’s the Difference?

Margarine is an example of a food high in trans fat

Trans Fat

Trans fats are fats made during food processing. Vegetable oils are processed by food manufacturers to be more like saturated fats. This transforms healthy vegetable oils to a rigid structure which makes them harder to decompose and become rancid. This is good for food manufacturers because they increase the shelf life of foods and prevent them from spoiling; however, these fats are not good for your health.

Trans fats are found in fried foods (like doughnuts) baked goods (like pie crusts, biscuits, and frozen pizza), and in condiments (like stick margarine and non-dairy coffee creamer). Also if the food label has the words “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredients list, then it contains trans fats.

Like saturated fat, diets high in trans fats can increase your cholesterol and risk for heart disease. As a result, the American Heart Association recommends to cut back on all trans fats in your diet.

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Avocado is an example of food high in unsaturated fatUnsaturated fat

Unsaturated fats are not full of hydrogen bonds, therefore they are a more flexible structure and generally liquid at room temperature. Fats in this group include monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids. These fats are considered healthy fats because they can lower cholesterol levels, decrease heart disease risk, decrease risks for type 2 diabetes, and improve inflammation.

Foods high in unsaturated fats include olives, avocados, seafood, nuts like walnuts, oils like olive and canola, and flaxseed. I recommend replacing your saturated and trans fat foods with foods high in unsaturated fats. In doing so, you will improve your health and reduce your risk of disease.  

To sum it up, the amount and types of fat in your diet can play an important role in your overall health. This includes your risk for heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, inflammation and even athletic performance. If you are interested in incorporating more healthy fats into your diet, contact your registered dietitian today to learn how to create a meal plan that works for you!

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Amanda Haney (Legro), MS, RD, CNSC
Hi, my name is Amanda Haney (Legro). I am a registered dietitian and board-certified nutrition support clinician. I was born and raised in Bakersfield, CA. I later moved to Southern California to attend Cal State Long Beach where I obtained my undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics as well as my master's degree in nutrition science. I completed my dietetic internship at Cal State Long Beach as well. And I love my alma mater so much that I have since returned to teach undergraduate courses in nutrition. I practice medical nutrition therapy in the pediatric intensive care unit at Miller Children's and Women's Hospital Long Beach. As a clinical dietitian, I'm committed to providing my patients with high-quality nutrition care, to improve their well-being on their road to recovery. I became a dietitian because I love food and I love medicine. There is so much misinformation about nutrition in the media. My passion is to make nutrition simple and to make your health goals achievable. In my free time, I love soaking up the beauty at the beach, riding my bike, staying active, cooking, and, most of all, spending time with my family and friends!