Facing Facts: Healthy and Unhealthy Fats

On the news and in the media more generally, you often hear reports listing words like ‘cholesterol’, ‘trans fats’ or ‘polyunsaturated fat’. To the uninitiated, this can be confusing at best, and at worst a minefield with no real solutions advising what you should and shouldn’t eat. This article will run through some come healthy and unhealthy fats, and outline their impact, including dietary advice and how to lower cholesterol.

Trans fats

This type of fat has only really begun to make big headlines in recent years, mainly because many are manmade through a process known as hydrogenation. This makes the oil more solid and can increase your risks of heart disease, stroke and developing type-2 diabetes.

You’ll find trans fats mainly in processed foods like takeaways, biscuits and cakes. Food producers are increasingly aware of the dangers of trans fats, so read food labels to avoid them.

Polyunsaturated fats

As long as you don’t overindulge, these are considered healthy fats. They’re important if you’re wondering how to lower cholesterol, as they can improve blood cholesterol levels. It’s also important to fit in some exercise in order to manage this fat-like substance, even if that’s just a home workout.

Polyunsaturated fats may also work to reduce your risk of type-2 diabetes. You’ll find them in pine nuts, sesame oil, sunflower seeds and walnuts.

Monounsaturated fats

A healthy fat, ideally most of the fats you eat should be mono or polyunsaturated. However, this doesn’t mean they’re a miracle cure – all kinds of fats are still high calorie foods and can cause weight gain, so limit your intake of fats to roughly 30-35% of your total calories for the day.

Monounsaturated fats may help control blood sugar and insulin, as well as improving blood cholesterol levels. Go for avocados, olive oil, almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts to get your fill.

Saturated fats

As it’s a solid at room temperature, saturated fat is also known as ‘solid fat’. This is generally considered an unhealthy fat, as it can raise your levels of harmful cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. If you’re concerned about how to lower cholesterol, reducing your intake of saturated fats are a good place to start, but you can also find some simple guidelines about how to lower cholesterol  online.

As a basic guide, women should avoid eating more than 20 grams of saturated fat per day, while men should avoid more than 30 grams per day. Try using olive oil and sunflower spreads, as well as grilling or steaming food rather than frying or roasting it.

Omega-3 fatty acids

These are mostly discussed in the media in terms of fish, and are the main reason your granny may have taken a cod liver oil supplement. Salmon, sardines and mackerel are also great sources of Omega-3.

Vegans and vegetarians will have to plan their diets more carefully in order to get enough of this healthy fat, but there are plenty of plant-based sources, including rapeseed (also known as canola) or flaxseed oil, walnuts and sunflower seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to decrease your risk of coronary artery disease and lower blood pressure; what more could you want?